September 30, 2008 / 8:13 PM / 10 years ago

Latin America leftists slam U.S. on financial crisis

MANAUS, Brazil, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Latin America’s socialist leaders accused the United States on Tuesday of “irresponsibility” in its handling of a financial crisis that has dried up credit markets and threatens economies around the world.

While Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warned the crisis could slow economic growth across Latin America, he still took a stab at Washington and predicted that U.S. economic power is in dramatic decline.

“This crash of capitalism and of neoliberalism will be worse than that of 1929,” Chavez told reporters at a meeting with the leaders of Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador in Brazil’s Amazon city of Manaus.

“The world will never be the same after this crisis. A new world has to emerge, and it’s a multipolar world,” he said. “We are decoupling from the wagon of death.”

Many Latin American countries depend heavily on exports of commodities, such as oil, soy, copper and bananas, and falling prices combined with tighter credit are raising fears of a sharp slowdown.

“Financing will become more difficult,” Chavez said. “Raw material prices could come down, starting with the price of oil, and including copper, minerals and food stuffs.”

With world money markets in trouble, policymakers are hoping the U.S. Congress will quickly revive and approve a $700 billion rescue package that would allow the U.S. Treasury to buy up bad debt from struggling banks.

But Bolivian President Evo Morales, who is a close ally of Venezuela’s Chavez and has nationalized the natural gas industry as part of his socialist reforms, criticized the U.S. plan as a bail-out for the rich.

“In Bolivia, we nationalized for the people to have money, while the United States wants to nationalize debt and a crisis of the wealthy,” Morales said before meeting with Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa and Chavez.

Correa, Morales and Chavez all promote socialist reforms and have been harsh Washington critics. Lula, a former labor leader, has ties with all three but has been much more market friendly and also has good relations with Washington. (Reporting by Fernando Exman; writing by Raymond Colitt; editing by Stuart Grudgings and Kieran Murray)

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