Tue, Feb 01, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Venezuela's Chavez blasts US imperialism

TOUGH TALKING Sporting a Che Guevara shirt, Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez yesterday denounced the US for attempting to dominate the global economy

AP , PORTO ALEGRE, BRAZIL

As the fifth World Social Forum wound to a close, Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez blasted US imperialism, and leftist activists said the outcome of the Iraqi election doesn't translate into democracy.

Sporting a red shirt embossed with a picture of the revolutionary Che Guevera, Chavez received a hero's welcome on Sunday in southern Brazil, where activists greeted him with hugs and cries of "Here comes the boss!"

Tens of thousands of people are attending the six-day gathering held to protest the simultaneous World Economic Forum in Switzerland, railing against the spread of unfettered corporate-sponsored capitalism.

No Deal

While the economic forum ended on Sunday, the social forum's final day was yesterday, the same day the US was supposed to close a deal to create a 34-nation Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) stretching from Alaska to Argentina.

Though the deadline will be missed, officials plan to restart negotiations this year amid bitter opposition from leftist activists.

They consider Chavez their strongest voice against the US-sponsored spread of liberalized trade in Latin America, a move they say benefits multinational companies while enslaving the workers.

Imperialist

"The imperialist forces are starting to strike against the people of Latin America and the world," Chavez said in a 90-minute speech in which he denounced US President George W. Bush for conducting foreign policy with bombs and the US for attempting to dominate the global economy.

"It's up to our soldiers to stay alert and be prepared to defend the people and not to submit themselves to the interests of the empire," Chavez said.

At one point he switched from Spanish to mostly English, denouncing the FTAA trade proposal, called ALCA in Spanish and Portuguese.

"Where is the ALCA mister? The ALCA is dead," Chavez said to roars from the crowd.

Chavez, a self-described revolutionary, is mounting an aggressive land reform campaign and funneling most of the profits from Venezuela's oil riches to the poor as part of a political movement loosely based on the ideas of South American independence hero Simon Bolivar.

Social forum activists also denounced Sunday's Iraqi elections and called for world-wide protests on March 19 and March 20 to demand the withdrawal of US troops.

No Trust

Contrary to US claims that the elections went well despite scattered suicide bombings and mortar attacks, activists said no one should trust a government elected while the country is under occupation by 150,000 US soldiers.

The call for renewed worldwide protests "marks the revival of the anti-war movement," said Walden Bello, executive director of the Thailand-based Focus on the Global South, a group opposed to war and the spread of corporate-sponsored globalization.

"These stage-managed elections are illegitimate to the core," Bello said.

"The world will not fall for this ploy," he said.

While Chavez was cheered at the social forum, some participants jeered Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva when he spoke last Thursday, accusing him of failing to come through on promises of social reforms to eradicate Brazilian misery.

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