Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has come to the defense of Brazil's embattled President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, saying conservative opponents are using a corruption scandal to unfairly attack the Brazilian leader.

During a brief visit to Brazil Friday, Mr. Chavez called Mr. da Silva "an honest man." The Brazilian president went on national television Friday and publicly apologized for the corruption scandal plaguing his administration, while denying involvement.

President da Silva was a staunch supporter of Mr. Chavez during Venezuela's strikes in 2003 and the recall attempt in 2004.

Venezuela and Brazil are exploring avenues for greater economic integration, including a proposed $2.5 billion oil refinery in Brazil that would create 10,000 jobs and process 250,000 barrels of oil a day.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Bloomberg.