Chavez Vows Scialist Opposition To US 'Empire'

Sunday, March 11th 2007, 8:16 pm
By: News On 6

EL ALTO, Bolivia (AP) _ Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called Sunday for a socialist counterattack against the American ``empire,'' taking his campaign to upstage President Bush's Latin American tour to a packed gymnasium in a poor, indigenous Bolivian city.

Speaking for over an hour in El Alto, which sits on a cliff above the capital, La Paz, Chavez repeated accusations that the U.S. was trying to assassinate him and close ally Bolivian President Evo Morales. The U.S. has denied the allegations.

Chavez donned a traditional Andean poncho and a wreath of coca leaves, and tried on a Bolivian miner's helmet and a traditional Quechua hat looped in neon thread while professing his love for the country named after his idol, the 19th-century South American revolutionary Simon Bolivar.

He and Morales signed a series of agreements strengthening ties between the two nations, pledging closer integration of their petroleum industries and officially naming Bolivia a member of Banco Sur, a South American development bank Chavez sees as an alternative to the International Monetary Fund.

Chavez held an anti-Bush rally in a soccer stadium Friday in the Argentine capital, then headed to flood-ravaged Bolivia to tout his pledge of $15 million in flood relief _ 10 times the amount sent by the U.S.

``The empire is in counterattack, with the head of the empire himself leading the attack,'' Chavez said of the U.S. ``And why? Because they realize that the popular Latin American offensive is for real.''

He said now was the time for Latin America's newly socialist countries to fight back.

``We have resisted for a long time. But no one wins a battle always staying on the defensive,'' he said. ``This is no longer a time for defense. This is a time for attack. Let loose the charging cavalry!''

Chavez was headed to Nicaragua Sunday, then on to Haiti and Jamaica on Monday. Bush met with conservative Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, his strongest ally in the region, in Bogota on Sunday.

While Bush has declined to even mention Chavez's name during appearances this week in Brazil and Uruguay, Chavez has peppered his lengthy speeches with jabs at Bush.