Telling somewhat less than tasteful jokes about weapons of mass destruction has been an occasional pastime of a number of senior US Republican politicians.
George W Bush, at a 2004 press dinner, showed a series of photos of him searching the Oval Office while telling guests: “No they’re not here”.
Ronald Reagan, during a sound check for a regular radio broadcast, joked he had signed legislation to outlaw Russia and that the “bombing will begin in five minutes”.
And John McCain, at a 2007 rally, sang “Bomb, bomb, Iran” to the tune of a Beach Boys song.
But that is where he finds himself after asking his mining minister during a televised cabinet meeting: “How’s the uranium for Iran? For the atomic bomb?”
Chávez’s mocking drew sniggers from cabinet members. Rodolfo Sanz, the mining minister who had turned up late, grinned.
The comments were made after it emerged last month that Iran was helping Venezuela detect uranium deposits.
Chávez has repeatedly said that all countries should end their nuclear weapons programmes, while insisting that Iran and Venezuela have a “sovereign right” to pursue peaceful nuclear ambitions.
But that has failed to reassure the US State Department, which is worried about the possibility of nuclear transfers between Iran and Venezuela.
Chávez has vowed to press ahead with plans to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in Venezuela.
He insisted he was not planning to send uranium to Iran, which has significant uranium deposits of its own and currently has no need to import uranium.
“They are going to start saying that we are going to make an atomic bomb,” Chávez said.