September 19, 2008
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- President Manuel Zelaya said U.S. apathy toward deepening poverty in Honduras forced the longtime Washington ally to turn for help to Venezuela's leftist leader, Hugo Chavez.
Zelaya said rising food prices began hitting Hondurans hard six months ago and he asked the local business sector, the United States and the World Bank for help.
But he said his pleas fell on deaf ears and so he "sought out Chavez."
"Allies, friends, did not help me when I asked for help," Zelaya said in a news release Friday.
The Venezuelan leader _ whose oil-rich nation has benefited from high world prices _ offered Honduras US$300 million a year to invest in agriculture and help the country, where about 70 percent of the population lives in poverty, Zelaya said without providing more details.
Zelaya made the comments at a meeting with business leaders on Thursday, according to Friday's news release.
Zelaya has become increasingly outspoken about his support of Latin America's leftist leaders since August, when Honduras joined the Bolivarian Alternative alliance known as ALBA, a trade bloc led by Venezuela.
Earlier this month, Zelaya postponed the accreditation of the U.S. ambassador for a week to express his solidarity with Bolivia's complaint that the top U.S. diplomat there incited protests by the opposition.
On Friday, Panamanian President Martin Torrijos joined the other Latin American countries in expressing its support for Bolivia.
New U.S. ambassador Hugo Llorens told reporters on Tuesday that "relations between the U.S. and Honduras are excellent." He said there are plans for a meeting between Zelaya and President George W. Bush next week in New York City.