Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez welcomed Syrian President Bashar Assad during his “historic” first visit to Caracas on Saturday.
“For the first time, the Syrian president crossed the Atlantic and chose Caracas as his first stop,” Chavez boasted. The two met last in Damascus in September 2009. Chavez said that Latin America and the Arab world would together play a “key role in freeing the world” by fighting “Imperialism, capitalism and “neo-liberal hegemony that today threatens the survival of the human race.
“But one day the genocidal state of Israel will be put in its place, and let's hope that a really democratic state emerges there, with which we can share a path and ideas,” the Venezuelan leader reportedly remarked during his meeting with Assad. “It has become the assassin arm of the United States; no one can doubt it. It is a threat to all of us. Not just to you but to us as well. A threat to the countries who fight for their freedom,” Chavez added, according to the Reuters news agency.
Assad praised the Venezuelan leader for “supporting just causes both in Latin America, our own region and throughout the world. Few politicians are brave enough to say 'no' when it's needed,” he told Chavez, who had broken ties with Israel during the three-week war against Hamas terror in Gaza in the winter of 2008-2009.
The two cemented economic ties with a $100 million deal to create a trade and development fund between the two nations. Venezuela and Syria are also expected to agree on a joint project to build an oil refinery in Syria that would produce up to 140,000 barrels of crude per day. Venezuela is home to the world's largest natural deposit of oil outside of the Middle East.
Assad is scheduled to travel to Brazil, Argentina and Cuba after leaving Venezuela.