Tue, Sep 20, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Thousands rally in support of Hugo Chavez

AP , CARACAS, VENEZUELA

Several thousand supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez rallied in support of his spirited "defense of humanity" at the UN and his fierce criticism of "illegal" UN reforms.

Waving Venezuelan flags, launching fireworks and singing along with a traditional folk band, roughly 2,500 government supporters gathered on Sunday outside the presidential palace in downtown Caracas for a speech by Chavez.

The rally was staged to coincide with Chavez's return from a three-day tour of New York City, where he vowed to improve relations with the US States while harshly criticizing UN reforms.

Chavez, a close ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, told UN representatives at the organization's main headquarters that recently approved reforms would permit powerful nations to invade developing countries whose leaders might be seen as a threat to their people. Chavez' speech at the UN drew what observers said was the loudest applause of the summit.

"It was historic, no other president has ever done what he did: stand up there and speak truths the powerful countries don't want to hear," said Judith Liendo, a 42-year old teacher who watched the speech live on Venezuelan state television. "He made us feel proud to be Venezuelans."

Speaking to the crowd in Caracas, Chavez said: "We tell the truths we believe in, without any fears ... and we will continue telling these truths at world summits."

He said the document adopted at a UN summit on Friday was developed "in an arbitrary manner" without the consensus "of the majority of the world's nations," adding that it "had no value."

Chavez singled out a section of the document creating a Peacebuilding Commission that outlines a "responsibility to protect," arguing US officials could use it as an excuse to invade oil-rich Venezuela.

"They are trying to legalize imperialism within the United Nations, and Venezuela cannot accept that!" Chavez bellowed.

During a speech lasting close to two hours, Chavez did not mention efforts to improve relations with the US government. Relations between Caracas and Washington have been tense in recent months, with US officials expressing concern over the health of Venezuelan democracy under Chavez and near daily criticism from the Venezuelan leader of alleged US hegemony in international affairs. Chavez, who traveled to communist-led Cuba for talks with Castro before arriving in Venezuela, said the "imperialist" government of US President George W. Bush "continues trying to dominate the world."

Irene Delgado, who wore a red T-shirt bearing the image of revolutionary hero Ernesto "Che" Guevara, said Chavez has nothing against the American people, "only the fascist government of George W. Bush."

"I don't think they have anything in common, one's a dog of war and the other wants peace and justice," Delgado said.

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