PORLAMAR, Venezuela (Reuters) – Venezuela’s socialist President Hugo Chavez urged colleagues from Africa and South America to help form a “multipolar” world yesterday at a summit intended to counter Western economic dominance.
“This is the beginning of the salvation of our people,” Chavez said in an opening speech to the two-day meeting.
His summit guests included Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, who is celebrating four decades in office and had a white limousine flown to Venezuela to meet him at the airport, and Robert Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe for nearly 30 years.
Chavez has governed for just over 10 years and makes no bones about his aim to stay in office for decades more while he works to turn oil-rich Venezuela into a socialist state.
He said the summit, attended by 28 African and South American leaders, would help the mainly poor nations improve ties and rely less on Europe and the United States.
“The 21st century won’t be a bipolar world, it won’t be unipolar. It will be multipolar. Africa will be an important geographic, economic and social pole. And South America will be too,” Chavez said.
Also attending were the presidents of Brazil and South Africa. Their model of business-friendly economics mixed with a focus on helping the poor is more popular among many African countries than Chavez’s radical message.
The leaders are expected to ink a document today backing stronger links between the two continents and urging global bodies like the United Nations and World Bank to give poor countries more clout.