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Chavez Visits Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Hails Castro


On a state visit to Hanoi, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez hailed Cuban President Fidel Castro, who has been hospitalized following gastro-intestinal surgery. Chavez visited the tomb of former Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh, and confirmed a deal to help Vietnam build its first oil refinery.

After visiting the tomb of the former Vietnamese Communist leader Ho Chi Minh Tuesday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez hailed Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who has temporarily handed over power to undergo surgery.

"Viva Fidel Castro!" he exclaimed.

Mr. Castro is a close ally of Mr. Chavez, who says he is deeply concerned for the elderly Cuban leader's health.

During a meeting with Vietnamese business leaders in Hanoi Tuesday, Mr. Chavez confirmed a deal to help Vietnam build its first oil refinery. Venezuela, an oil industry giant, can provide Vietnam with needed technical and financial assistance.

Mr. Chavez is gradually nationalizing Venezuela's oil industry. Assisting Vietnam's state-owned oil company, PetroVietnam, fits well with his economic philosophy.

Mr. Chavez condemns capitalism and neo-liberalism.

Mr. Chavez's visit to Vietnam is part of a world tour of countries such as Belarus, Russia and Iran. All have large state-owned energy companies, authoritarian leadership, and rocky relationships with the United States. Mr. Chavez is encouraging them to share his own wariness toward America - not just its policy, but its culture.

Mr. Chavez says Venezuelans are getting fat from cooking with imported American ingredients, which he calls "trash food." He also denounces American hamburgers and superhero movies.

Vietnam's economy still has a large state-owned sector. But overall, it has spent the past two decades moving away from socialism and toward private ownership. And the country has cultivated better relations with the United States, its former enemy, which is now one of its leading trade partners.

So while Vietnamese business leaders applauded Mr. Chavez's friendship with their country, none joined him in denouncing the United States, or capitalism.

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