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Strong criticism for Lula's backing of Chavez

dpa German Press Agency
Published: Tuesday November 14, 2006

Brasilia/Caracas- Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva took a blast of criticism on Tuesday for having backed his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez as he seeks re-election on December 3. Venezuelan electoral authorities and Brazilian opposition politicians joined the opposition to the Chavez government in saying that Lula's comments were out of order.

Vicente Diaz, a leader of Venezuela's National Electoral Council (CNE) deplored that Lula talked about a subject that "strictly" corresponds to Venezuelans.

"The Brazilian president has no business expressing an opinion about the Venezuelan election, that is a gross intervention in Venezuela's domestic affairs," he told local television.

Brazilian conservative senator Jose Jorge also condemned Lula's speech.

"Lula spent almost a year campaigning for votes in Brazil, and now he went to Venezuela to campaign. It is high time he starts to govern," he said.

Social democratic senator Alvaro Dias, in turn, accused Lula of "allowing himself the luxury of playing the part of a Chavez supporter while his country awaits important decisions that cannot be deferred."

During a visit to Venezuela on Monday, Lula likened Chavez's situation to his own - an outsider taking over the reins of government from a party that had long been in power.

"We are the victims of misunderstandings and preconceptions of people who governed our countries for centuries and who do not accept that someone thinks different, that someone wants to take care of the people," Lula said, though he admitted that as a foreigner he cannot be engaged in Venezuelan politics.

Lula however also said Venezuela never had a government that cared for the poor as much as that of Chavez, and added that that generates opposition from the country's richer citizens.

The Venezuelan opposition criticised Lula's comments on Monday.

"Not even Lula can save this government. Not Lula, nor, all the presidents that they care to bring to say good things to a people who knows that (the government) has a red, bad balance sheet in every government activity," opposition candidate Manuel Rosales said.

His campaign chief Jose Vicente Carrasquero told local radio that Lula travelled to Venezuela to satisfy a "client."

"It is a clientelistic situation, it is a situation of capitalism disguised as socialism. It is part of the hypocrisy of this left wing that is not such, it is a left wing that travels in luxury airplanes and that allows itself luxuries that the people do not have access to," Carrasquero claimed.

Chavez, widely popular at home for addressing poverty, has caused a stir on the international scene during his tenure, in particular with his fiery anti-US rhetoric. Chavez referred to US President George W Bush as "the devil" in a speech at the UN in September.

Lula, himself re-elected on October 29, stressed that a second mandate would be more demanding for Chavez as well as himself.

© 2006 dpa German Press Agency