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Chavez treads red carpet in Venice
Venezuelan leader recieves film star's welcome at premiere of documentary about him.
Last Modified: 08 Sep 2009 05:04 GMT

At one point Chavez took a photographer's camera to snap a picture himself [Reuters] 

Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's president, has received a film star's welcome at the Venice film festival where he attended the world premiere of a documentary that portrays the south American leader as a champion of the poor.

Chavez trod the red carpet amid tight security on Monday, accompanied by Oliver Stone, the film's director.

Hundreds of admirers gathered ahead of Chavez's arrival. A few held up Venezuelan flags and a banner in Spanish that read "Welcome, president."

Chavez threw a flower into the crowd and touched his heart, and at one point took a photographer's camera to snap a picture himself.

Security at the festival was tightened in advance of his arrival, with military police checking bags.

The film, "South of the Border",  paints a sympathetic portrait of a leader Stone says has helped the poor and who has been unfairly demonised by the US media.

'Cameras and genius'

Chavez said of the film: "Rebirth is happening in Latin America, and Stone went to look for it and he found it. With his cameras and his genius, he's captured a good part of that rebirth."

Stone spent extensive time with Chavez when making the film, for which he also interviewed the leaders of Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Cuba and Paraguay, whom Stone said were "on the same page" as Chavez.

The 75-minute documentary argues that the economy has grown under Chavez's rule and poverty levels have fallen sharply, all without the help of bailout loans from foreign lenders.

But while Chavez received celebrity treatment at the festival, he has recently been the subject of protests in his own country, where people have criticised his handling of the economy and a clamp down on the media.

The documentary also includes clips of US news channels casting Chavez as a threat akin to that posed by al-Qaeda.

"The caricature compares me to Hitler and Mussolini, that is just laughable," Chavez said.

"It shows a lack of respect to the intelligence of the human being and of society."

Source:
Agencies
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