Brazil leads international support for Chavez

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 9, 2013 at 4:13 pm •  Published: January 9, 2013
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil and several other South American nations rallied behind Venezuela's decision to defer the inauguration of ailing leader Hugo Chavez, with the presidents of Uruguay and Bolivia and Haiti's prime minister traveling to Caracas on Wednesday in a show of support.

But some regional neighbors, including Chile, joined the European Union and the United States in steering clear of the legal debate over the swearing-in, which had been scheduled for Thursday.

The 58-year-old Chavez in December underwent a fourth cancer-related surgery in Cuba, where he remains. His supporters have postponed his inauguration for a new presidential term, while an opposition coalition argues that the delay violates Venezuela's constitution.

Brazil's backing as a regional power is especially important as Venezuela tries to manage its political future, said Adam Isacson, of the Washington Office on Latin America, a U.S. think tank.

"Brazil has a record of saying 'no' to Venezuela, of being independent," said Isacson. So when Brazil offers its support, "it really counts, it's not a knee-jerk" reaction, Isacson said.

Marco Aurelio Garcia, the top international affairs adviser to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, visited Havana on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, meeting with Cuban authorities and Venezuelan Vice president Nicolas Maduro, but not with Chavez himself.

Garcia has said that what he heard in Cuba, and found in additional research, convinced him that the Venezuelan constitution makes provisions for deferring a presidential inauguration if the elected leader cannot attend.

He made it clear that the Brazil was not worried about the situation.

"The Brazilian government, Mercosur and Unasur would be concerned if there were a process of instability in Venezuela, in which there was a disruption of order," Garcia said, referring to South America's major trade blocs.

Chavez's strongest support comes from fellow leftist Latin American leaders and governments that rely on Venezuela for support.

Jose Mujica, a former guerrilla known for his modest living and for espousing the legalization of marijuana, same-sex marriage and abortion rights, traveled to Caracas in a show of solidarity both as Uruguay's president and pro tempore head of Mercosur.

Bolivian President Evo Morales and Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe were also traveling to the Venezuelan capital. They and Mujica were expected to attend a gathering of Chavez supporters at the presidential palace Thursday.

Like other Caribbean and Central American countries, Haiti benefits from Petrocaribe, a Venezuelan program that supplies fuel and allows the nations to pay part of the bill with goods such as rice and beans rather than cash. Haiti welcomes the aid because it has fewer conditions than that imposed by the U.S. and other donors.

"They helped us after the (2012) floods. They sent over 600 tons of food just recently. They are helping us every day with Petrocaribe," Lamothe said before boarding his flight to Venezuela. "We're going there to pay tribute to their people and of course show solidarity with the Venezuelan people."