Thursday, June 28, 2012

"Europe's Last Dictator" Lukashenko On Latin American Tour, Visits Chavez, Castro

"Europe's Last Dictator" Lukashenko On Latin American Tour, Visits
Chavez, Castro
By Ryan Villarreal: Subscribe to Ryan's RSS feed
June 27, 2012 1:50 PM EDT

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warmly embraced his Belarusian
counterpart Alexander Lukashenko as the two met in Caracas Tuesday to
sign a set of cooperative deals.

"Venezuela is full of joy, decked out to welcome our brother president,"
Chavez said at the welcoming ceremony. "Over the years we have not only
built a true strategic alliance, but a sense of brotherhood."

In Chavez, Lukashenko has found a like-minded leader, as both are known
for their autocratic style of rule and their entrenchment as heads of
state. Chavez has held the presidency since 1999, while Lukashenko has
been in power since 1994.

At the meeting, Chavez made light of the fact that both leaders have
been characterized by Western powers as authoritarians.

"The United States and Europe call him (Lukashenko) 'Europe's last
dictator' ... They also call me a 'dictator,'" which he dismissed as the
propaganda of "capitalism and imperialism."

The two countries signed some 20 agreements, ranging from joint oil
ventures and auto manufacturing deals to housing projects and
agricultural developments.

"We have come, not to enrich ourselves, but to transfer technology,
build homes and teach Venezuelan specialists," Lukashenko said.

Venezuela stands to gain from Belarusian technical expertise, while
Belarus views its partnership with Venezuela as the key to expanding its
ties with other Latin American countries.

"Hugo Chavez has done a lot so that we can begin a dialog with other
countries, such as Brazil, Argentina or Chile," Lukashenko said.

Lukashenko has also sought out other leftist governments in Latin
America, meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro in Havana before
arriving in Venezuela. He will also travel to Ecuador where he will meet
with President Rafael Correa, concluding his three-nation tour.

Belarus' diplomatic push into Latin America is particularly important
for the Eastern European nation which has been isolated by EU sanctions
over its record of political oppression. Relations with neighboring
Russia, once a strong ally, have deteriorated in recent years over
Lukashenko's failure to support Russian ambitions for a strategic
regional bloc.

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