Venezuelan government slams as racist U.S. campaign ad linking Trump to Chavez

October 20, 2016 1:50 PM EDT

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro holds a book with a photo of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez as he talks to the media during a news conference after the 17th Non-Aligned Summit in Porlamar, Venezuela September 18, 2016. REUTERS/Marco Bello


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By Girish Gupta and Alexandra Ulmer

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's government has slammed as "racist arrogance" a U.S. Democratic Party campaign ad supporting Hillary Clinton that puts her Republican presidential rival Donald Trump in the same category as Hugo Chavez, Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler.

The ad, aimed at U.S. Hispanic voters ahead of the Nov. 8 election, features comments by Trump that Clinton should be jailed and his vow to sue media that spread "purposely negative, horrible and false" articles.

"Remind you of anyone?" the video asks in Spanish, before flashing images of the late socialist Venezuelan leader Chavez in military fatigues and a red beret, ordering the closure of radio and television stations.

The video also compares Trump and Chavez, who died in 2013, with European dictators Mussolini and Hitler, and concludes by urging voters to "protect" U.S. democracy. The ad was paid for by the Democratic National Committee in support of Clinton, and was not made by her campaign.

"It is an expression of racist arrogance and irrationality from a party that does not serve its constituents," Venezuela's Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said in a statement late on Wednesday.

"Chavez is a leader who transcended our time for his democratic nature, his fight for the poor and universal feeling for humanity."

But to many Latin Americans and Latino voters in the United States, Chavez has become a bogeyman.

The South American nation, whose economy is heavily dependent on oil exports, is suffering acute food shortages and soaring inflation and many Venezuelans blame the state-led economic system that Chavez launched.

Trump, a real estate magnate, is himself at political odds with Chavez's legacy, saying in July that the United States would "end up being Venezuela" if Clinton won the White House.

And Chavez's successor, President Nicolas Maduro, last year branded Trump a "bandit" and "thief" after the American accused Mexico of sending criminals to live in the United States.

Trump has antagonized many Latinos with those remarks and his vows to build a wall along the border with Mexico and make Mexico pay for it. Most recently, he offended Hispanics with his attacks on a former Venezuelan beauty queen, whom Clinton said he called "Miss Housekeeping" because she was a Latina.

In his last presidential debate with Clinton, on Wednesday night, Trump sparked online outrage among critics when he repeated his calls for tougher border security, saying "We have some bad hombres here and we're going to get them out."

(Additional reporting by Luciana Lopez in New York; Editing by Frances Kerry)



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