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Presidents of Argentina, Paraguay, and Ecuador Publicly Defend Venezuela’s Chavez

Mérida, Venezuela, March 16, 2007— Argentinean President Nestor Kirchner, Ecuador's President Rafael Correa, and Paraguayan President Nicanor Duarte all came to the defense of Hugo Chávez following his controversial tour of Latin America last week and criticized the politics of his counterpart George W. Bush.

President Nestor Kirchner, who had come under fire from the opposition in his country for supporting Chavez, defended Chavez's visit earlier this week when he said, " I welcomed the President of the fellow Republic of Venezuela, who acted in solidarity with Argentina; who came when Argentina was in need and he helped us," and added that some rulers of "big countries" failed to show solidarity with Argentina.

Opposition groups in Argentina said that the presence of Chávez and his anti-Bush rally in Buenos Aires harmed Argentina's image in the world and caused governments like Japan, France, and the United States to avoid stopping in their country during their tours through the region.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro denounced the media coverage as a campaign to discredit the Venezuelan president. On the state channel VTV, Maduro said yesterday that the private media seeks to confuse the population, explaining that in Latin America there are two realities; the reality of the media which the oligarchy tries to present and the reality of the street, demonstrated through public acts.

Ecuador's Rafael Correa and Paraguay's Nicanor Duarte also spoke out in defense of the Venezuelan president. Correa called Venezuela's foreign policy "wonderful" and mentioned Venezuela's cooperation with Argentina and Ecuador in areas such as energy and healthcare. Hugo Chávez "is the President most willing to help," he stressed, while US foreign policy under Bush has been "terrible," alluding to the invasion of Iraq and the Guantánamo prison in Cuba.

Nicanor Duarte, who previously had rarely commented on Chavez, also sharply criticized US President Bush while at the same time praising Venezuela for what he called its "overdose of democracy." Duarte referred to Washington's "waging of wars" and "setting international prices," and pointed out that the US government does not move to remove protectionist barriers in the developed world.

Duarte said he could believe Bush's promises "when there is technology transfer, when tariff barriers are lifted and when he stops treating our fellow citizens in a miserable way when they try to travel to his country."

Regarding Venezuela, Duarte stressed that the country is very democratic. "It is the only country where the Constitution provides for a referendum in the middle of the presidential term," he said, referring to the presidential recall referendum allowed for in Venezuela's Constitution passed in 1999.

On his radio show this week, Hugo Chávez thanked Kirchner for coming to his defense against "attacks from the right." He stressed that the conflict between the United States and Latin America is nothing new and claimed that it was an elite class that "has governed the United States since a long time ago that has become accustomed to stepping on and disrespecting the world."

"We want to live in peace with the north… That is our battle," said Chávez on his radio program, because we are tired of being the back yard where they throw out the trash."

Published on Mar 16th 2007 at 10.28pm