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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 November 2005, 06:49 GMT
Chavez renews trade pact attack
President Hugo Chavez
Chavez serenaded the crowd with Mexican folk songs
Thousands of Venezuelans have joined a march against the economic policies of US President George Bush and his Mexican counterpart, Vicente Fox.

President Hugo Chavez led the protest against the US' proposals to create a Free Trade Area of the Americas.

Last week Mr Chavez accused Mr Fox of being a lapdog of the US for going along with Washington's plan.

Venezuela and Mexico withdrew their ambassadors from each other's capitals as a result of the bitter row.

'Latin American brotherhood'

Mr Chavez again attacked the US-backed trade FTAA proposal as he led the Caracas rally.

Wearing a Mexican hat and singing Mexican folk songs, Mr Chavez told around 5,000 protesters that he did not want Venezuela's recent argument with Mexico over the free-trade agreement to continue.

Mexican President Vicente Fox
Fox rounded on Chavez for trying to block the deal

In his speech Mr Chavez stressed that the people of Mexico were Venezuela's Latin American brothers.

But despite his conciliatory tone towards Mexico, he launched into another tirade against plans to create a free market zone in the Americas from Alaska in the north to Patagonia in the south.

"The FTAA can go to hell," Mr Chavez shouted into his microphone. "This country is free, we are not going to be colonised again," he told those gathered.

Mr Chavez said the US was responsible for dividing Latin American nations, in particular Mexico and Venezuela, and that the Bush administration would be celebrating if it succeeded in doing so.

But with a string of presidential elections coming up in Latin America between now and the end of 2006, Mr Chavez said Washington would have to deal with more and more left wing leaders like him.

Earlier this week, the disagreement over the trade plan degenerated into bitter exchanges between Mr Chavez and Mr Fox.

Mr Chavez accused Mr Fox of being a lapdog of the US, while Mr Fox said Mr Chavez was betraying the interests of Latin Americans by blocking the trade deal.

Scenes from the protests in Caracas

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