Venezuela's leftist government on Monday called Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski a "coward" and "dog" servile to the United States for his antagonism to socialism.
Kuczynski, a 78-year-old former Wall Street investment banker who won election last year, has been one of the most vocal regional critics of Venezuela's ruling "Chavismo" movement, named for late socialist leader Hugo Chavez.
He particularly irked President Nicolas Maduro's government with a recent speech in the United States, in which he compared Latin America generally to a well-behaved dog on the carpet – except for Venezuela, which was "a big problem."
Maduro called for an apology over the weekend. His feisty Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez followed up with a blistering attack at an event honoring Chavez on Monday.
"He goes round, poor thing, with my respect because he is an elderly man, [like] a good dog who wags its tail at the empire and asks for an intervention in Venezuela," she said of Kuczynski. "He's alone, going round like a crazy man, with no one paying attention."
Rodriguez also accused the Peruvian leader of insulting Chavez's memory during a recent summit in Colombia.
"I also rose and told him, ‘Look, mister, you are a coward, and I repeat it here, Mr. Kuczynski. You are a coward who dared to tarnish the memory of our commander, Hugo Chavez,'" she said.
Later on Monday, Peru's government said it rejected Venezuela's "insolent" comments and would send a protest letter.
"The comments made by Venezuela's foreign minister are unacceptable," Peru's Foreign Minister Ricardo Luna said in a speech to congress.
Kuczynski employed "an idiomatic and metaphorical expression used in academic circles" meant to describe Latin America's lack of conflicts rather than "demonize" the region, Luna added.
With recent moves to the right in Brazil and Argentina as well, Venezuela's government has lost support in Latin America, although it retains strong links with fellow leftist-led nations Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador and Nicaragua.