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Chavez's Five-Nation Tour Receives Warm Welcome
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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez returned home late Monday after a five-nation tour of Latin American and Caribbean nations which was greeted by cheers and jubilation along the way.

Chavez began his parallel tour of the region last Friday, covering Argentina, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Jamaica and Haiti, seeking to limit the influence of US President George W. Bush's visit to Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico.

In Argentina, he signed energy accords and took part in a 35,000-strong rally in the Ferrocarril soccer club to express opposition to Bush's tour.

In Bolivia, Chavez and his Bolivian counterpart Evo Morales flew over Trinidad, capital of the northern province of Beni, an area worst hit by heavy rains that have affected 350,000 Bolivians.
Apart from the US$15 million in disaster aid Chavez had pledged previously, he donated 40 trucks and two helicopters to the country.

During his visit, Chavez and Morales signed a series of agreements on cooperation in economy and energy, under which Venezuela and Bolivia have agreed to set up the Bank of the South and the Organization of Gas Exporting and Producing Countries in South America to ensure the economic independence of the region.
In Nicaragua, Chavez was received by hundreds of people who filled the streets of the capital Managua, waving banners and cheering the regional economic integration process he is leading.

Continuing his tour to Jamaica and Haiti, the Venezuelan president also signed deals on energy cooperation with the two nations' governments.

In contrast, Bush's Latin American tour left violent protests in its wake.

The US president's visit required extreme security measures, including evacuation and restriction of movement in entire cities, as well as military and police deployment to contain anti-Bush protests.

International press pictures showed Bush alone on stages, receiving sporadic greetings from a distance.

During Bush's visit to the five countries, riots left police and protestors injured, buildings damaged and many were arrested.

In Colombia, 325 people were arrested, 24 others, including four police officers, were injured, and more than 20 buildings were damaged. Opposition leaders denounced police for using excessive force.

(Xinhua News Agency March 14, 2007)

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