Caracas, Venezuela, October 18, 2005—Following his visit to Spain, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez flew to Italy on Sunday, where he blasted the U.S. government’s role in increasing world hunger at the 60th anniversary of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), had meetings with Italy’s Prime Minister, and spoke at a conference on Latin America.
The first activity upon Chavez’s arrival in Italy was to visit Monte Sacro, near Rome, where Latin America’s independence hero made a legendary oath 200 years earlier, in 1805, to fight for the independence of Latin America. Monte Sacro has been a symbol for the struggle against repression ever since the 5th Century BC. Echoing Bolivar’s pledge of the time, Chavez said on the mount that Venezuelans, “should not rest their arms nor their souls until we have broken the chains that oppress our people due to the will of the North-American Empire.”
Chavez also said that it is now more necessary than ever for the world to break with capitalism. “We conscious men and women of the earth, who are everyday more, must either change and transcend the capitalist way of life or life will end in one or two hundred years.” As an example of what might happen, Chavez mentioned global warming.
Chavez’s next stop was Milan, where he held a speech at the first Italian solidarity gathering, emphasizing that Latin America as a whole was moving towards the left in reaction to the failures of neo-liberalism on the continent. “A new era is coming, and we will play our part,” said Chavez to the gathered supporters.
In Milan Chavez also attended a conference on Latin America, which high-level representatives from Mexico, Brazil, and Chile also attended. At the conference, Chavez stated that Latin American integration should be accelerated because, “it is vital for negotiations with the north.” Chavez also argued that the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) not only violates the interests of Latin Americans, but also of Europeans because it would help the U.S. to maintain its position of global economic dominance.
Chavez reserved his strongest attacks on U.S. foreign policy for his speech at the 60th anniversary of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome. “I accuse the North-American Empire of being the first threat to life on the planet,” said Chavez in a widely applauded speech. “The survival of the human species is in danger,” added Chavez. His audience included President Lula of Brazil, President Nicanor Duarte of Paraguay, and Italy’s President Carlo Ciampi.
Back in Milan, Chavez had a meeting with Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, where he discussed possibilities for increasing commercial relations between Venezuela and Italy.
Later, in an interview with the Italian newspaper, La Reppublica, Berlusconi said that he believes Chavez is a “pragmatic guy,” who maintains business relations with the U.S. despite ideological differences. “It is true that there are ideological distances [with the US], but in the end, commercial relations are good. I know [Chavez] for a while now. I also have good relations with him,” said Berlusconi.
In one of his last visits, Chavez met with the leader of Italy’s left party, the former Prime Minister Romano Prodi, where they discussed Latin American integration and cooperation with Europe.
Chavez’s next stop in his European tour will be France, where he will meet with French President Jacques Chirac and representatives of the French oil company Total.