Likening himself to Jesus Christ, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says that if he stops talking -- as suggested at the weekend by an irate Spanish monarch -- "the stones of Latin America will cry out."
"If I stopped talking, the stones of Latin America would cry out, because the people are willing to be free of any kind of colonialism after 500 years," he added.
In case the allusion to Jesus was missed, the office of the presidency issued a statement giving the biblical reference (Luke 19:38-40). Urged by his critics to rebuke his disciples for praising him as one sent from God, Jesus replied, "I tell you, if these keep silent, the stones would cry out."
The self-styled Bolivarian revolutionary has invoked Jesus before.
When he took an oath starting his new presidential term last January, he did so in the name of "Christ, the greatest socialist in history."
He also told his critics, including Roman Catholic bishops, that they should read the Bible (and Marx and Lenin). "Christ was an authentic communist, anti-imperialist and enemy of the oligarchy," he said.
More recently, reacting this month to bishops' opposition to controversial attempts to amend Venezuela's constitution, Chavez called them Pharisees, and said "if Christ was alive, was here physically, he would drive them out with a whip."
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