CARACAS (Reuters) – Racism in the United States appears to have worsened during the administration of its first black leader, Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro said on Saturday.
Maduro, who has come under fire from President Barack Obama’s government in recent weeks for his treatment of domestic political foes, said he was appalled by recent cases of police killings of blacks in the United States.
“It’s really dramatic,” he told TV network Telesur, highlighting the death of Eric Garner, who was caught on video gasping for breath in a policeman’s stranglehold, as particularly “brutal.”
“It’s as if racism has been exacerbated in the United States with the arrival of Obama himself,” said Maduro, the socialist leader who succeeded Hugo Chavez last year.
Protests have been taking place across the United States in over what many see as a pattern of callous misuse of lethal force against minority groups.
“I’m sorry because to some extent, I respect Obama personally. But I think he’s a hostage of the real powers in the United States, and he decided not to fight. He’s tired, exhausted,” Maduro said.
In a continuation of fractious U.S.-Venezuelan ties since Chavez took power in 1999, Obama officials have criticised this year’s jailing of protest leader Leopoldo Lopez since February, and this week’s indictment of another opposition figurehead, Maria Corina Machado, accused of plotting to kill Maduro.
The Venezuelan leader said that was hypocritical, and made an unspecified allegation against the U.S. embassy in Caracas.
“They are behaving dangerously. The U.S. embassy’s meddling is starting to become intolerable,” he said.