Bolivia’s president-elect, Evo Morales, has been welcomed to Venezuela with full military honours. His meeting in the capital Caracas with President Hugo Chavez was the second leg of a seven-nation tour.
The pair have antagonized Washington with their alliance with Cuba and promotion of left-wing partnerships to counter US free-market policies in Latin America. At a press conference Morales said: “The advice I received was ‘Evo, lead Bolivia obeying the Bolivian people’, therefore I will lead Bolivia obeying the Bolivian people.” Chavez said Venezuela would support Morales’s crusade to protect coca crops against US eradication campaigns aimed at stopping cocaine production. Addressing his Bolivian counterpart, he said: “Evo, we know this battle is hard, you can always count on our support for that battle here, in the United Nations, in the Organisation of American States, and in the world to defend the coca farmers, who are being demonised.” Chavez promised to help finance social programmes in Bolivia, including one aimed at eliminating illiteracy, and to provide technical assistance for gas and oil exploration. He has already increased government control over Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, while Morales wants to nationalize Bolivia’s gas resources. Chavez presented Morales with a replica of the sword used by Venezuela’s liberation hero Simon Bolivar.