PORLAMAR, Venezuela (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez hosted some of Africa’s longest-serving leaders at a sleek Caribbean resort on Saturday for a summit he says will help end U.S. and European economic dominance.
High-profile guests included Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, who is celebrating four decades in office and had a white limousine flown to Venezuela to meet him at the airport, and 85-year-old Robert Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since leading it from British colonialism nearly 30 years back.
Chavez has governed for just over 10 years and makes no bones about his aim to stay in office for decades more while he works to turn Venezuela into a socialist state.
He said the two-day meeting of African and South American leaders, which also includes many recently elected presidents, would help the mainly poor nations build stronger trade ties and rely less on Europe and the United States.
Chavez said Europe and the United States were empires that have imposed poverty on much of the world.
“We are going to create two great poles of power,” Chavez told reporters at the luxury Hilton resort on Venezuela’s Margarita island late on Friday. We are “seeking a world with no more imperialism where we will be free, uniting to escape poverty.”
The presidents of Brazil and South Africa also attended the summit. Their model of business-friendly economics mixed with a focus on the poor is more popular among many African countries than Chavez’s radical message.
Some analysts say the developing economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China, known as BRIC nations, could eclipse the economies of the world’s richest countries by 2050.
The leaders at the summit were likely to agree on supporting stronger links between the two continents and calling for reform of global institutions like the United Nations and World Bank to give poor countries more clout.
Gaddafi, whose entourage arrived in two matching Airbus passenger jets and pitched a large Bedouin tent beside the Hilton’s pool, on Wednesday told the United Nations that big powers had betrayed the U.N. charter with their vetoes and sanctions.
King Mswati III of Swaziland, who was crowned in 1987, was also due to appear on Margarita, along with the leaders of Equatorial Guinea, Angola and Algeria, among others.
In total, 28 African and South American leaders were expected to be present by Saturday afternoon.
Chavez seems to be going all out to provoke his foes.
On Friday, Venezuela said Iran helped identify its uranium reserves, just hours after the West accused Tehran of building a secret nuclear fuel plant.
Chavez says he opposes nuclear weapons, but that the developed world does not have the right to stop other countries from developing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
A major oil exporter, Venezuela is seeking to widen Chavez’s ALBA alliance of mainly Latin American leftist governments to include African states.
Chavez promised this month to build a refinery in Mauritania and sell crude to Mali and Niger in West Africa, a region that is emerging as a major new oil frontier considered of strategic importance to oil companies.
Additional reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Will Dunham