Venezuela's Chavez visits London, but won't meet Blair

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez visits London Sunday with a packed two-day agenda that includes meetings with London's maverick mayor, left-leaning lawmakers and trade unions. The one thing missing is a face-to-face with Britain's prime minister, or any government official for that matter.

The visit is in stark contrast to his trip to Britain in 2001 when he warmly embraced Tony Blair.

Tensions between the two governments have been escalating since February, when Blair told legislators in the House of Commons that Venezuela "should abide by the rules of the international community" and that he would like to see Venezuela's close ally Cuba become a "functioning democracy."

Chavez responded by saying Blair's comments came like a "cannon blast."

Chavez, a fierce critic of the war in Iraq, has characterized Blair as a "pawn of imperialism" over his close alliance with U.S President George W. Bush, whom Chavez has compared to Adolf Hitler.

Chavez's moves to exert greater control over his country's vast petroleum reserves have also drawn criticism from Britain and other countries. Blair on Friday called on Venezuela to use its energy resources responsibly.

Chavez stirred controversy earlier this year on another sensitive issue in Britain with comments on the Falklands War.

He said the Falkland Islands a British territory known in Latin America as the Malvinas Islands rightly belong to Argentina. Britain and Argentina fought a short war over the islands in 1982 in which Argentine troops briefly occupied them.

In a sign that Chavez has some backing here, a group of 66 British lawmakers in February put their names to a parliamentary motion expressing support for Chavez's government. The document was signed mainly by left-leaning lawmakers.

Venezuela's London embassy issued a statement Thursday, confirming that Chavez would not have any contact with the British government during his visit. The statement did not mention the recent tensions, saying only that Chavez has "already had an official visit to the United Kingdom where he met with the prime minister and other British authorities", reports AP.


Subscribe to Pravda.Ru Telegram channel, Facebook, RSS!

Author`s name Editorial Team