Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez dismissed US National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice as a "true illiterate" for accusing him of not playing a constructive role in Latin America.
Chavez said he asked Cuban leader Fidel Castro to mail to Rice samples of books that Venezuela is using, with Cuban support, for literacy education, to "see if she learns to respect the dignity of the people and learns a bit about us."
Speaking at an official event in Caracas, Chavez said that Rice "fired her unworthy artillery against our people" by saying that he should not oppose the referendum that seeks to oust him from power.
In Washington on Friday, Rice said that "there are roles that Venezuela has played that have not been very helpful."
Rice cited tensions between Venezuela and neighboring Colombia as well as Chavez's good relations with Castro, who has outlasted successive US presidents for four decades.
"It is beyond me to understand why anybody who believes in democracy or wants people to believe that they believe in democracy would want to have anything in that regard to do with Fidel Castro, because that's the one truly undemocratic regime in the region," Rice said.
She also called on Chavez to abandon efforts to block a vote on cutting short his term.
"The best thing that President Chavez could do at this point is to demonstrate that he believes in a democratic future for Venezuela by carrying out the wishes of his people in this regard," said Rice.
After five years in office, Chavez, a 49-year-old former lieutenant colonel, has faced down general strikes -- one in 2001, and the other between late 2002 and early 2003 -- and survived a 47-hour civilian-military coup in mid-April 2002.