Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says that if he were a US citizen, he would vote for President Barack Obama in the November 6 presidential election -- and if Obama were Venezuelan, he'd vote for Chavez.

The firebrand leftist president is in a tight re-election race of his own against opposition candidate Henrique Capriles in a vote to be held on October 7.

"If I were from the United States, I'd vote for Obama," Chavez told the privately-held Televen television network on Sunday.

If Obama came from a working-class Caracas neighborhood, he would "vote for Chavez," the Venezuelan president claimed.

"Obama recently said something very rational and just: Venezuela is not a threat to the interests of the United States," Chavez said, calling the US president a "nice guy."

Despite the warm words, the United States and Venezuela have had rocky relations for years, and the two countries have not had ambassadors in their respective capitals since 2010.

Chavez also described Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's "extreme right-wing" proposals as "a truly irrational thing."

If both he and Obama win their re-elections, Chavez -- who has been in power more than 13 years -- said he hoped the two countries "could begin a new period of normal relations.

Since first taking office in 1999, Chavez has attacked Washington's "imperialist policies" -- yet the United States, which buys one million barrels of Venezuelan oil a day, is the South American country's biggest trade partner.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]