Hugo and Mahmoud, Best Friends Forever!

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Hugo Chávez, during his stop in Iran, held hands with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and declared Iran to be "a true strategic ally, a staunch ally" to Venezuela:

Speaking to Venezuelan state TV on the phone from Tehran, Chavez defended Iran's "sovereign right" to pursue a nuclear program, which the West fears masks nuclear arms making. Tehran, despite three rounds of U.N. sanctions over its failure to halt uranium enrichment, persists in the pursuit, insisting the program is only for peaceful purposes.

"There isn't any proof that anybody can show that Iran is building an atomic bomb," Chavez said. "We're certain that Iran won't give in to any blackmail."

He said that Venezuela will also likely face such accusations in the future, as it is looking to develop "nuclear energy so that the Venezuelan people can also count on this marvelous resource for peaceful purposes."

But Ahmadinejad is not his only friend. During Chavez's stop in Libya, Muammar Gaddafi awarded him a medal for his part in celebrating Gaddafi's 40th anniversary in power - the day before Gaddafi asked that Switzerland be abolished.

In Syria, Chávez called Israel's government "genocidal" during a two-hour speech that was televised in Venezuela. Israel condemned the statement.

Chávez issued a written statement (in Spanish) today where he even managed to insult Protestants,

"Libya, Algeria, Syria, Belarus, Russia: Countries that go against the Yankee current and integrate, in their own way, as we do, the "Axis of Evil," a name that exudes the smells of reactionary Protestantism."
Over in Venezuela, Infrastructure Minister Diosdado Cabello announced the closing of 29 more radio stations, in addition to the 34 that were closed by the government last month. Cabello also announced that his department is starting an administrative procedure against beleaguered TV channel Globovisión,

Chávez continues his 11-day tour with stops in Belarus and Russia, after visiting Libya, Syria, Iran and Algeria.

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