The Rev. Jesse Jackson rejected claims by American officials that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was a threat to regional stability and called on both governments to curb escalating rhetoric.
Relations between Venezuela and the U.S., strained since popular leftist Chavez won office in 1998, deteriorated in recent weeks after Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said during a South American tour that Chavez was fomenting instability.
Jackson, who plans to meet with Chavez during a three-day visit to Venezuela, said the U.S. charges were baseless but that both sides should scale back their war of words. He also condemned last week's suggestion by U.S. televangelist Pat Robertson that American agents should kill Chavez, calling the statements "immoral."