Chí¡vez is Urged in Brazil to Keep Democracy Strong

Brazil's Lula da Silva and Argentina's Nestor Kirchner called on their Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez to avoid decisions that could "debilitate" democratic institutions in Venezuela reported the Brazilian press this Sunday.

According to the prestigious daily O Estado de S. Paulo, the issue was addressed during a private meeting between the South American leaders last January 18 in Rio do Janeiro in the framework of the 32nd Mercosur summit.

"Lula told Chavez of the need to avoid measures that could debilitate democratic institutions in Venezuela", reports the São Paulo newspaper.

Chavez arrived in the Mercosur summit after having been inaugurated for a second six year mandate and having announced the nationalization of what he describes as "crucial" sectors of the economy, energy and telecommunications.

During the meeting in the Copacabana Palace Hotel between Lula and Chavez, Argentina's Kirchner also participated and, reports the Brazilian press, "the Argentine president was far more direct and vehement than Lula" because allegedly "Kirchner questioned the nationalizations' policy".

Chavez has announced the nationalization of the Venezuela's main telecommunications corporation CANTV, electricity utilities and the non renewal of the television concession to the private channel RCTV which his administration accuses of having promoted the aborted April 2002 coup.

Chavez has also requested special powers, for a limited period of time, from Congress to rule by decree and rapidly implement his "socialist model", which also includes eliminating the Central Bank's autonomy and investing "idle funds".

Meantime in Caracas President Chavez spent most of his Sunday program "Aló Presidente" to dissipate fears about his announced "Socialism Century XXI" and promised to respect private property.

In his colloquial message Chavez said "No good fellow; don't let yourself be scared…we've begun to build our Socialism where you have a role to play, you private businessman, you small farmer have to fully participate in this cause."

Chavez also made it a point to distance himself from the "Cuban model Socialism", which he described as a "moral, ideological and political reference", but each country "has its own historic process and time opportunity".

Venezuelan press has revealed that the Chavez administration is also intent in nationalizing the country's main airport in the capital Caracas, and a baseball team.

"Don't let anybody spread fears…we can only be scared of capitalism, which destroys society," underlined the Venezuelan president.



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