Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has accused the United States of taking advantage of the deadly earthquake in Haiti to occupy the Caribbean country.
Chavez on Sunday scoffed Washington’s move to send thousands of American soldiers to Haiti, describing them as “Marines armed as if they were going to war.”
“There is not a shortage of guns there, my God. Doctors, medicine, fuel, field hospitals, that’s what the United States should send,” Chavez said on his weekly television show.
“They are occupying Haiti undercover,” he warned.
The Pentagon says it has deployed more than 10,000 soldiers in Haiti to help victims of Tuesday’s earthquake. This comes as US paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division took control of the main airport in the capital Port-au-Prince on Friday.
“On top of that, you don’t see them in the streets. Are they picking up bodies? … Are they looking for the injured? You don’t see them. I haven’t seen them. Where are they?” Chavez went on to ask.
Chavez’s remarks echo those earlier made by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega who on Saturday expressed “deep concern” over the US deployment of troops in Haiti.
The US has been accused of interfering in Haitian internal affairs in the past. The US military played a role in the departure of the former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide before his second term was over in early 2004. Aristide has described his departure as a kidnapping.
Despite the sharp criticism, Chavez said he did not mean to diminish the humanitarian effort made by the United States and was only questioning the need for so many troops.
The Venezuelan president promised his nation would send as much gasoline as needed for transport and producing electricity in Haiti.
Caracas has sent several planes with doctors, aid and some soldiers to the island state and a Russia-Venezuela mission is due to leave for the stricken country on Monday.
Last week’s 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti is estimated to have left some 200,000 people killed and more than 1.5 million others homeless, with at least 70,000 bodies collected from the rubbles so far.