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Hugo Chavez: Words that grabbed headlines

March 05, 2013|By Emily Alpert
  • President Hugo Chavez speaks at a news conference Dec. 5, 2006, in Caracas, Venezuela.
President Hugo Chavez speaks at a news conference Dec. 5, 2006, in Caracas,… (Mario Tama / Getty Images )

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who died Tuesday at age 58, was a flamboyant figure on the world stage, often snagging headlines with his dramatic declarations in speeches and to the media. Here are some of the remarks that garnered international attention:

The devil: Chavez pronounced President George W. Bush “the devil” in a fiery speech at the United Nations in 2006. One day after Bush spoke to the international body, Chavez stood before the same lectern and announced, “Yesterday, the devil came here. Right here.” He crossed himself. “Right here. And it smells of sulfur still today.” Beyond the famous speech, Chavez accused Bush of plotting to kill him and habitually referred to the U.S. president as “Mr. Danger” after an evil character in a Venezuelan novel.

Mars: The Venezuelan leader once said capitalism might have killed off life on Mars. “I have always said, heard, that it would not be strange that there had been civilization on Mars, but maybe capitalism arrived there, imperialism arrived and finished off the planet,” Chavez said while marking World Water Day, Reuters reported in 2011.

Halloween: On his television show, “Alo Presidente,” Chavez once held forth against Halloween, calling the holiday a “gringo custom.” “Dressing up the family like witches, it runs contrary to our customs,” Chavez said in 2005. “It's all a game of terror, very appropriate to gringo culture, to make other countries afraid, make its own people afraid.”

Twitter: Chavez took aim at Twitter in early 2010, calling it a “tool of terrorism,” only to join the microblogging service months later as @chavezcandanga.

Breast implants: The Venezuelan president also weighed in on cultural matters, taking aim at everything from Scotch whisky to breast implants as unsuitable for a revolutionary Venezuela. In 2011, he reportedly faulted doctors for convincing women “that if they don’t have some big bosoms, they should feel bad.”

Barbie and PlayStation: Chavez charged that Barbie has “nothing to do with our culture” and should be replaced with dolls with indigenous features, while the Sony videogame console was “poison,” Agence France-Presse reported in 2010. “Some games teach you to kill. They once put my face on a game, ‘You've got to find Chavez to kill him,’” Chavez said. Videogames are sold to market weapons and “promote the need for cigarettes, drugs and alcohol so they can sell them,” he added. “That's capitalism, the road to hell.”

The Haitian earthquake: After a devastating earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, Chavez accused the U.S. of causing the disaster by testing an “earthquake weapon,” Spain’s ABC reported. The Venezuelan president claimed that a Russian base had reported on the weapons test, finding that the Haitian quake was “a clear result.” Chavez also alleged that the U.S. was using the temblor as a pretext for “occupying Haiti undercover.”

A U.S. cancer plot: Chavez speculated that the U.S. might have engineered the cancer that struck him and other Latin American leaders. “It’s very difficult to explain, even with the law of probabilities, what has been happening to some of us in Latin America,” Chavez said in a televised speech to the military, according to Bloomberg news service in 2011. “Would it be so strange that they’ve invented technology to spread cancer and we won’t know about it for 50 years?”

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