Porlamar: Some 30 African and South American leaders are seeking to build on their alliances at a summit that gives Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez a chance to extend his influence across the Atlantic.
Libya`s Muammar Gaddafi set up camp in a trademark Bedouin tent and met with Chavez inside it Friday night. Others including Zimbabwe`s Robert Mugabe and Algeria`s Abdelaziz Bouteflika arrived at the beachside hotel amid crowds of bodyguards and aides.
The two-day summit starting on Saturday on Venezuela`s Margarita Island is aimed at addressing a wide range of common concerns, from poverty solutions to calls for reform at the United Nations.
Chavez has called it "a summit of great importance for the struggles of the South."
Presidents are discussing plans for cooperation in energy, trade, finance, agriculture, mining, and other areas.
"Africa and South America — We`re going to form two of the large poles of power in that ... multi-polar world that has begun to be born," Chavez said as he arrived for the summit on Friday night. He said that by uniting, the two regions can confront a legacy of poverty left "by the empires of the North — by the empires of Europe, by the US empire."
The meeting gives Chavez an opportunity to attempt a greater leadership role outside Latin America while critiquing US influence and promoting socialist-inspired policies.
"South-South" cooperation has been a buzzword in the run-up to the summit, which brings together two regional blocs: the African Union and South America`s fledgling Unasur group.
A first, smaller gathering of African and Latin American leaders was held in Nigeria in 2006. The timing this year — immediately after the UN General Assembly in New York and G20 economic summit in Pittsburgh — suggests it may turn out to be a forum for many non-G20 nations to respond and focus on their concerns about the way the global financial crisis is being handled.
Deals to work together in tapping energy and mineral resources are also expected.
Chavez has already announced that Venezuela may help build an oil refinery in Mauritania that could process 30,000 to 40,000 barrels per day and supply fuel to Mali, Niger and Gambia.
It is unclear how much the South American oil exporter is prepared to invest in energy projects in Africa since it is coping with a sharp drop in its revenues due to lower crude prices.