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Posted Monday, March 12, 2007
Chavez shadows Bush in whirlwind tour
By Stevenson Jacobs, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez shadowed his political foil President Bush on a tour of Western Hemisphere nations, stopping Monday in Haiti after passing through Jamaica to promote aid packages and discuss development projects.

chavez haiti 7.jpg (85686 bytes)
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez (C) waves to the crowd after his arrival in Port-au-Prince, Haiti Monday, March 12, 2007. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz  More Images

Chavez, who left Nicaragua as crowds greeted Bush in Guatemala, was met by Haitian President Rene Preval and several thousand cheering supporters outside the Port-au-Prince airport.

Many waved Venezuelan flags, while some chanted "Down with Bush, long live Chavez!"

Chavez came to discuss a $20 million fund announced last week by Venezuela's state-run development bank to provide humanitarian aid to Haiti and develop joint cooperation projects with the hemisphere's poorest nation.

Earlier, Chavez made an unannounced stop in Jamaica €” a country that has taken advantage of Venezuela's Petrocaribe initiative to buy oil under preferential terms.

While in the resort city of Montego Bay, he had a "short working visit" with Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, the country's first female prime minister, said Wilton Dyer of the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Haiti similarly benefits from Petrocaribe. The program, widely seen as an effort by Chavez to make inroads in a region where the United States is a major trading partner, allows deferred payment and long-term financing for fuel shipments.

Preval, a Chavez ally, relies heavily on U.S. aid. The United States, Haiti's largest donor, last year pledged a $492 million aid package aimed at helping the country recover from a devastating 2004 revolt that ousted former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Chavez appears intent on spoiling Bush's tour of Latin America. In Nicaragua on Sunday, Chavez chanted his anti-Bush mantra of "gringo go home" at a rally with President Daniel Ortega.

As Bush traveled to Guatemala on Sunday evening, Chavez and Ortega went to the city of Leon, where they left flowers at the tomb of poet Ruben Dario and announced that Venezuela would build an oil refinery nearby. Cheered by thousands, Chavez said Bush's tour was a failure.

"Latin Americans are telling you: 'Gringo, go home!'" he said.

On Friday, he held a stadium rally in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires and then headed to Bolivia's flood-ravaged lowlands on Saturday to tout his pledge of $15 million in disaster aid €” 10 times that sent by the United States.

While Bush has declined to even mention the Venezuelan leader's name in public, Chavez has peppered his speeches with gibes at his rival. Sunday's appearance in El Alto, Bolivia €” 13,100 feet above sea level €” was no different.

Bush's plane "doesn't dare" fly over the Andean city, Chavez said, "because here we are so high up he might think that we were going to reach up and grab him."

____ AP writers Filadelfo Aleman in Managua, Nicaragua; Howard Campbell in Kingston, Jamaica; and Dan Keane and Alvaro Zuazo in La Paz, Bolivia, contributed to this report.

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