Belafonte led a delegation of Americans that met President Chavez for more than six hours on Saturday. Some in the group, which included Danny Glover, the actor, and Cornel West, the Princeton scholar, attended the president’s television and radio broadcast on Sunday.
“No matter what the greatest tyrant in the world, the greatest terrorist in the world, George W Bush says, we’re here to tell you: Not hundreds, not thousands, but millions of the American people … support your revolution,” Belafonte told Chavez during the broadcast.
“We respect you, admire you, and we are expressing our full solidarity with the Venezuelan people and your revolution.”
Chavez accuses Bush of trying to overthrow him, pointing to intelligence documents released by the US indicating that the CIA knew beforehand that dissident officers planned a short-lived 2002 coup. The US denies involvement, but Chavez says Venezuela must be on guard.
“No matter what the greatest tyrant in the world, the greatest terrorist in the world, George W Bush says, we’re here to tell you: Not hundreds, not thousands, but millions of the American people … support your revolution”
“We have to defeat imperialism to save ourselves – and not only ourselves, to save the world,” Chavez said. He called Bush “Mr Danger”.
Belafonte, now 78 and famous for his calypso-inspired music, including the “Day-O” song, was a close collaborator of Martin Luther King and is now a Unicef goodwill ambassador. He has also criticised the US embargo of Cuba.
Attending the “Hello President” programme, broadcast live from a farming co-operative southwest of Caracas, Belafonte said he had come to learn about Chavez’s “Bolivarian Revolution”, which includes a wide range of social programmes for the poor and is named after Simon Bolivar, the South American independence hero.
He said US news media portray Chavez as a “dictator”, whereas Venezuela is a democracy and Venezuelans are “optimistic about their future”.
Chavez called Bush “Mr Danger”
During the delegates’ visit, they toured a prison and talked to people in the street – hearing criticisms as well as praise for the government. To be able to criticise, Belafonte said, “is the greatest truth of a democracy”.
Chavez called Belafonte “my brother” and said he believes deeply in the struggle for justice by blacks in America – north and south.
“Although we may not believe it, there continues to be great discrimination here against black people,” Chavez said, urging his government to redouble its efforts to eliminate it.
Belafonte suggested setting up a youth exchange for Venezuelans and Americans to learn from each other. He finished by shouting: “Viva la revolucion!”