Chavez tours world

Hugo Chavez’s trip to Spain on Friday marked the end of his nine-country tour. The final stop was one of the least controversial, as discussion between Chavez and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero focused primarily on investment and bilateral energy issues, climate change and Spain’s upcoming presidency of the European Union.

His international tour included Russia, Iran, Syria, Libya, Algeria, Turkmenistan, Belarus, Italy and Spain.

While in Russia, Chavez declared that Venezuela would recognize the independence of two breakaway regions in Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Venezuela is only the third country to do so behind Russia and Nicaragua. Russia has strongly backed Abkhazia and South Ossetia and even engaged in a five-day war with Georgia over these regions.

According to the New York Times, Russian President Dimitry Medvedev responded, “We are not indifferent to the fate of South Ossetia and Abkhazia; we were the first country to come to the rescue of these young regions. We are glad that worldwide support for them is growing.”

Venezuela is strengthening ties with Russia hoping to secure a counterweight to Washington’s influence in Latin America, particularly in neighboring Columbia. On a two day visit to Tehran, Chavez announced that Venezuela will export 20,000 barrels of gasoline per day to Iran in order to strengthen bilateral ties. In turn, Iran will export machinery and technology to Venezuela.

In Syria, according to the New York Times, the Venezuelan President urged the Israeli people not to support their “genocidal” government. “It’s a genocidal government. I condemn that Zionist government that persecutes the heroic Palestinian people,” he said to a crowd of about 10,000 people.

The red carpet was rolled out for Chavez as he attended the world premier of Oliver Stone’s documentary, South of the Border, in Venice. He was welcomed by hundreds of admirers.

The film was filmed for the purpose of discovering the truth behind Western headlines about Chavez.

BBC reports that Stone discusses US paranoia towards its enemies, and the film is directed towards alleviating that paranoia.

“We wanted to emphasize the good things that have happened in Venezuela, like the poverty rate being cut by 50 per cent since he assumed power. Even his enemies would say that on that front, Chavez has done well.”

While explaining Chavez’s dictatorial status, Stone states that Chavez “has survived 12 electoral processes. Jimmy Carter went down to supervise one of them and he called it the fairest election he had ever seen.” According to Stone, Chavez is not deserving of the title and description of “dictator.”

The Venezuelan president’s international tour was highly controversial. Although his trip to Italy painted Chavez in a positive light, his earlier remarks and decisions are sure to receive mixed reviews.