CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez urged his Latin American allies on Saturday to begin withdrawing billions of dollars in international reserves from U.S. banks, warning of a looming U.S. economic crisis.
Chavez made the suggestion as he hosted a summit aimed at boosting Latin American integration and countering U.S. influence.
“We should start to bring our reserves here,” Chavez said. “Why does that money have to be in the north? … You can’t put all your eggs in one basket.”
To help pool resources within the region, Chavez and other leaders launched a new development bank at the summit of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Nations of Our America, or ALBA.
The left-leaning regional trade alliance supported by Chavez is intended to offer an alternative, socialist path to integration while snubbing U.S.-backed free-trade deals.
Chavez noted that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Colombia in recent days, saying “that has to do with this summit.”
“The empire doesn’t accept alternatives,” Chavez told the gathering, attended by the presidents of Bolivia and Nicaragua, Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage, and other leaders.
Chavez warned that U.S. “imperialism is entering into a crisis that can affect all of us” and said Latin America “will save itself alone.”
Rice left Colombia on Friday after a trip aimed at reviving a free trade deal that has stalled in the U.S. Congress. She sidestepped an opportunity to confront Chavez, who accused Colombia and the United States of plotting “military aggression” against Venezuela.
Chavez took up the issue again on Saturday, saying, “I warn the world of the following: The U.S. empire is creating the conditions to generate an armed conflict between Colombia and Venezuela.”