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Hugo Chávez embraces Iran and Syria, wins Russian support for nuclear program

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is in the midst of one of his world tours, making friends with US enemies and getting support for his country's nascent nuclear program.

By Staff writer / October 22, 2010

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (r.) welcomes his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chávez, during an official welcoming ceremony, in Tehran, Iran, on Oct. 19.

Vahid Salemi/AP


Mexico City

Yesterday he was in Syria. Wednesday he was in Iran. That was after visiting Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. Now he is off to Libya and Portugal.

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And all within 10 days.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's world tours, often to countries with constrained or outright hostile ties to the United States, are nothing new. He says plainly that their intention is, in part, to counter American “imperialism.”

Yet if this latest global foray does not surprise analysts or rattle geopolitics, some say it could actually damage Mr. Chávez at home. It comes after legislative elections in Venezuela that saw his political party lose seats to the opposition. While Chávez still commands impressive popularity at home, problems such as inflation and crime have loosened a presidential grip that once seemed iron-tight.

“Chávez is an extremely well-traveled Latin America president,” says Larry Birns, the director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs in Washington, but he adds that it might not work in his favor even though many say such trips help distract from problems at home. “When you have a deeply fractured society ... you spend as much time as possible at home.... He should be working to administer effectively his revolution.”

'The new world order'

In Damascus on Thursday, Chávez signed several economic agreements, including a deal to supply Syria with up to 1 million tons of diesel fuel annually. He said that he and Syrian President Bashar Assad are building ties "to accelerate the fall of [American] imperialist hegemony and the birth of the new world of equilibrium and peace."