Venezuela's Chavez Calls CAFTA 'Perverse'

Associated Press Writer

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez criticized a trade agreement that eliminates barriers between the United States and Central American countries, saying Sunday it is a misguided deal that will harm the region's small economies. Chavez, a frequent critic of the U.S. government, also said he had read reports of President Bush "putting money in circulation to buy votes and to blackmail, through the so-called (U.S.) intelligence agencies, to approve an initiative which is perverse." Chavez did not give other details of his source or the claims, which have been made by some opponents of the Central American Free Trade Agreement. The House of Representatives narrowly approved the agreement Thursday in a 217-215 vote, four weeks after the Senate backed the measure.