Chávez, Qaddafi get chummy at 'South-South' summit

The Africa-South America summit’s big personalities dominated the show. But some concrete proposals, like the plan for a Bank of the South, also came from it.

Carlos Garcia Rawlins/REUTERS
Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi greets Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Sunday during the plenary session at the Africa-South America Summit on Margarita Island.

In a warmer land, Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi finally found a place to pitch his tent.

After New Yorkers last week denied him the cultural courtesy, his host at the weekend’s Africa-South America summit, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, had a private meeting with Mr. Qaddafi in the now-famous bedouin tent. It was set up near the pool at the event’s hotel on the Venezuelan Caribbean island, Margarita.

But more than allowing him his preferred accommodations, Mr. Chávez is set to also decorate Qaddafi in a military parade in Caracas Monday, diplomatic sources told the Agence France-Presse. [Editor's note: The rally actually took place on the island of Margarita. In it, Chávez presented Qaddafi with a replica of a sword supposedly used by regional independence hero Simón Bolívar.]

Not too shabby, given it’s Mr. Qaddafi’s first visit to Latin America.

These two stalwarts were among nearly 30 South American and African leaders who came to the gathering Saturday and Sunday, only the second of its kind. (The first was in Abuja, Nigeria in 2006.) Although it was painted as a grouping of radicals following the Western-led (G-20 and UN) meetings to the North, cool-headed center-leftists from the region also attended and proposed pragmatic ideas.

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva plugged his nation’s long-held desire to host the Olympics in 2016. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said she would consider becoming a part of the initiative, formalized this weekend by seven other South American nations, to plan a $20 billion dollar “Bank of the South” to finance regional projects, according to BBC Mundo.

The bank emerged as the summit’s most concrete proposal. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, the Harvard-educated socialist, described the need for the bank to reporters: "We’re done depending on the North ... on one side, kneeling down to ask for some dollars and on the other sending billions of dollars to them. We’ve had enough of that contradiction."

Other tangible results from the gathering were several energy accords signed between Venezuela and African nations, including South Africa, Sudan, Cape Verde, and Niger, and a 95-point resolution calling for reforms to the UN Security Council to have more participation from the developing world and for cooperation between the two continents on education and technology. The body also condemned piracy, nuclear weapons, and arms trading.

And there’s more to come. The next summit is slated to take place in Qaddafi’s homeland in 2011. But his chummy weekend with Chávez is no one-time fling. Ties between the two have strengthened this past year, when in March the Libyan football federation named a stadium after the Venezuelan leader for his “brave humanitarian positions, especially in support of the people of Gaza in the recent Israeli aggression.” Qaddafi hosted Chávez in Tripoli in the beginning of September for Libya’s 40th anniversary of its coup.

By the way, what's the correct spelling of Qaddafi (or Gaddafi or Kaddafi)?

Can’t wait two years for your next Qaddafi fix? You don’t have to. He’s on Larry King Live tonight at 9 p.m. ET.

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