Al-Assad visits with Chavez

Venezuela President Hugo Chavez, right, welcomes Syria President Bashar al-Assad  in Caracas, Venezuela, on Saturday.  (Associated Press)
Venezuela President Hugo Chavez, right, welcomes Syria President Bashar al-Assad in Caracas, Venezuela, on Saturday. (Associated Press)

Syrian leader on first Latin America trip

CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Saturday and called on Latin America and the Arab world to fight what he called America’s imperialist and capitalist interests abroad.

During a meeting at Venezuela’s presidential palace, Chavez told Assad it was an honor to host the Syrian leader on his first visit to Latin America. Chavez presented al-Assad with a gold-plated replica of a sword that once belonged to South American independence hero Simon Bolivar – the inspiration for his “Bolivarian Revolution.”

“Arab civilization and our civilization, the Latin American one, are being summoned in this new century to play the fundamental role of liberating the world, saving the world from the imperialism and capitalist hegemony that threaten the human species,” Chavez said.

“Syria and Venezuela are at the vanguard of this struggle.”

Al-Assad praised Chavez for standing up to the United States.

“There are few politicians who are courageous to speak out when it’s necessary,” he said. “Chavez has projected the image of a resistant Venezuela.”

Chavez is perhaps Latin’s America’s most outspoken critic of the United States, lashing out at the U.S. government for purportedly conspiring against him and meddling in the region’s affairs.

Chavez also condemned the U.N. Security Council for tightening sanctions against Iran and warned Washington against starting a war with his ally, saying: “Don’t make a mistake with Iran.”

Chavez has built close diplomatic relations with Syria, Iran and other Middle Eastern countries while severing Venezuela’s ties to Israel. Last year, the socialist leader visited Syria, where he called Israel an imperialist nation that annihilates its neighbors and accused its government of doing Washington’s bidding by trying to divide the Middle East.

The two nations have signed numerous agreements in recent years, including plans to construct a 200,000-barrel-a-day oil refinery in Syria.

Following his meeting with Chavez, al-Assad is slated to travel to Cuba, Brazil and Argentina.

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