Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez received widespread popular acclaim when he toured the Central American countries of Guatemala and Honduras in mid-January, Rafael Pacheco, from Australian Solidarity with Latin America and the Committee in Support of the FMLN in Brisbane, told a meeting on January 28. The meeting was hosted by the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network.
Chavez, whose influence is sweeping throughout Latin America, visited Guatemala on January 14 as an official guest at the swearing-in ceremony of the country's new president, Alvaro Colom Argueta, a social democratic politician who won the Guatemalan elections last November. "Chavez attracted most of the attention from the national and international media, even more than Colom himself", Pacheco said. "Journalists pushed one another to get a better vantage point, and some started to chant pro-Chavez slogans", he added.
"Chavez then travelled to Honduras, where he was welcomed by President Manuel Zelaya. The two leaders signed economic cooperation agreements, in particular relating to the supply of crude oil by Venezuela to Honduras, and the integration of that country into the Petrocaribe framework. Honduras is now a full member of that initiative by Venezuela, and Guatemala is completing the process of joining."
Pacheco also explained that the first shipment of petrol from Venezuela had arrived in El Salvador recently, under an agreement between Caracas and El Salvadoran municipalities controlled by the FMLN (Farabundo Marti Liberation Front). Pacheco noted that FMLN local authorities had made all the necessary legal arrangements, and were responsible for distributing the petrol — which was enthusiastically received by local drivers.
Pacheco outlined FMLN plans to step up its campaign for the El Salvadoran elections in 2009, and foreshadowed a call for overseas observers to visit El Salvador at that time under the auspices of the FMLN. This was important to help counter attempts by the far-right ARENA government party to rig the elections, he said.