CARACAS (AFP) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez hailed the battle against capitalism as a “key role” shared by Caracas and Damascus on Saturday during a visit with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Chavez said Assad’s trip was “historic” because it was the first by a Syrian leader to Venezuela, as the pair met as part of a regional tour to reinforce economic ties.
“For the first time, the Syrian president crossed the Atlantic and chose Caracas as his first stop,” Chavez said, adding that it was an honor for Venezuela to receive him.
Chavez said Assad’s visit was part of a “strategic project of cooperation to build the Caracas-Damascus axis” linking the two socialist countries.
“Our calling is to play a key role in freeing the world (by fighting) against imperialism, against capitalist and neoliberal hegemony that today threatens the survival of the human race,” Chavez said.
“Syria stands before the world as an dignified people who continue raising the banner of Arab socialism, of which your father was one of the great leaders,” he added, referring to the late Syrian president Hafez al-Assad (1970-2000).
Assad, in turn, praised Chavez for his role in “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,” Assad added.
Accompanied by his wife, Asma, the Syrian leader arrived in Caracas on Friday. He and Chavez are expected to sign a series of agreements, including the joint construction of a refinery in Syria with a 140,000 barrels per day capacity.
Chavez and Assad last met in Damascus in September 2009.
Assad’s tour of Latin America, after Venezuela, will take him to Brazil and Argentina. All three countries are home to large communities of Syrian emigres.
The Syrian president will also visit Cuba to strengthen traditionally close ties, Syria’s official SANA news agency said Friday as Assad was leaving Damascus.