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Palast: It's very clear that the man on the hill, Ambassador Shapiro, and his boss Mr Bush, they don't like you. What is behind this? Not everyone in America, and obviously the government, appreciates you establishing a base floor on the price of oil. Why does the United States government act so hostile towards you?

Chávez: I believe there is something at the bottom of all this, in fact there are probably many reasons. Some, maybe I don't know about, but I'll tell you a small anecdote. One time, ex-President Bush the father, whom I'd already met in Houston a few months beforehand at the beginning of 1999, came here to Venezuela and I received him in the palace. He told me, "Mr President, I believe that your fundamental problem with the United States is that of perception."

I am perceived in the higher spheres of Washington as a threat, but they're very mistaken. I'm not an enemy of any country in the world. What I am is a friend of peace and sovereignty, and independence of states, international co-operation. A friend of a balanced world, of a multi-polar world, and friend of the people of humanity, of human rights, a friend of the world.

But in Washington, as I've said to a delegation of North American senators which was here, I told them that in Washington a lot of people believe I support terrorism, and that is completely false. Many people believe that I support the Colombian guerrillas, and that is totally false also. Some have the idea I move secretly around the world, conspiring against Washington's interests, and that is complete nonsense. So it's a problem of perception, and we must make a great effort here.