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Latin America market round up: Hugo Chávez watch

"Chávez is the ideological leader of the guerrillas in Colombia"

As a man who saw an action doll of himself become Venezuela’s winter 2006 must-have objet d’art, Hugo Chávez would perhaps not ordinarily mind being considered a Latin American idol. Enter Colombian foreign minister Fernando Araujo, whose comments in a speech in Washington at the end of March caused something of a diplomatic incident.

"Chávez is the ideological leader of the guerrillas in Colombia," he said. "The FARC say they feel a great admiration for him."

The Venezuelan foreign ministry responded by calling Araujo’s comments "unfortunate" and reminded him of recent cooperation between the two governments in attempting to deal with insurgents in Colombia. Further bickering between ministers from the two countries then broke out over Venezuelan claims that Colombian officials had attacked Venezuelan democracy in the media. Chávez, meanwhile, continued his ascent to the role of regional superstar when it emerged on March 22 that he had paid off the legal bills for Bolivia’s gas nationalization.

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