Thursday 23 November 2017

Lively Chavez hosts Latin American peers, snubs U.S

Displaying new vigor after cancer treatment, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez hosted fellow Latin American leaders to launch a new regional body on Friday that pointedly excludes the United States.

Lively Chavez hosts Latin American peers, snubs U.S

The inauguration of the 33-member Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which also does not include Canada, was the Venezuelan socialist's biggest moment on the world stage since he underwent surgery in June.

The 57 year-old Chavez, who wants to win re-election next October in the OPEC nation, embraced and lavished warm words on his counterparts, including Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, Argentina's Cristina Fernandez and Cuba's Raul Castro.

"As the years go by, CELAC is going to leave behind the old and worn-out OAS," Chavez said, referring to the hemisphere-wide Organization of American States that leftist governments say is under Washington's thumb.

The new group has lofty aims including the creation of a regional reserves fund for economic crises and a body for human rights monitoring. But critics say it unnecessarily adds yet another acronym to the plethora of overlapping, "alphabet soup" organizations that already exist around Latin America.

Exuding confidence, Chavez spoke at length and even made light of his health problems. "Whose bald head is the most elegant? Lula's or mine?" he joked of his and former Brazilian leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's chemotherapy.