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U.S. peace activist Cindy Sheehan announces plans for new protest at Bush's ranch during Venezuelan visit

Monday, January 30, 2006

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Cindy Sheehan, who gained international fame when she camped outside President Bush's ranch in an anti-war protest, plans to pitch her tent again, Venezuela's president said Sunday as he urged activists worldwide to help bring down "the U.S. empire."

Hugo Chavez, an arm around Sheehan's shoulders, told a group of activists that she had told him "she is going to put up her tent again in front of Mr. Danger's ranch" in April.

In some of his strongest recent comments aimed at Washington, Chavez condemned the Bush administration and said his audience should work toward ending U.S. dominance.

"Enough already with the imperialist aggression!" Chavez said, listing countries from Panama to Iraq where the U.S. military has intervened. "Down with the U.S. empire! It must be said, in the entire world: Down with the empire!"

Chavez said Sheehan had invited him to join her April protest at Bush's Texas ranch.

"Maybe I'll put up my tent also," Chavez said, to applause from an audience invited to his weekly broadcast on the final day of the World Social Forum, an annual gathering of anti-war and anti-globalization activists.

Sheehan, whose 24-year-old soldier son, Casey, was killed in Iraq in 2004, thanked Chavez for "supporting life and peace." She said earlier that she was impressed by his sincerity when they met privately on Saturday.

"He said, 'Why don't I run for president?"' she said. "I just laughed."

Sheehan, who lives in Berkeley, Calif., said Saturday that she is strongly considering challenging Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein because the lawmaker will not support calls to immediately bring the troops home.

Sheehan, 48, said running in the Democratic primary in June would help "bring attention to all the peace candidates in the country."

Sheehan, who was visiting Venezuela for the six-day forum, said she will decide whether to run after talking with her three adult children in California.

Sheehan accused Feinstein of being out of touch with Californians on the war in Iraq.

Feinstein's campaign manager, Kam Kuwata, said the senator did not support Bush and felt she had been misled by his administration. But with troops committed, Feinstein believes immediate withdrawal is unworkable, he said.

"Senator Feinstein's position is, 'Let's work toward quickly turning over the defense of Iraq to Iraqis so that we can bring the troops home as soon as possible,"' Kuwata said in an interview Saturday.

On Sunday, when Chavez passed the microphone to Sheehan on his show, she blamed Bush for the killings of innocents in Iraq.

Noting that the singer and activist Harry Belafonte recently called Bush "the greatest terrorist in the world" on Chavez's show, Sheehan said: "I agree with him."

Chavez said his government would help protest the war in Iraq by supporting a drive to gather petitions and delivering them to the U.S. Embassy in Caracas. Chavez, who before the war in Iraq had friendly relations with Saddam Hussein, has been a frequent and strident critic of the war.


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