Flooded Chavez Governs From a Tent

In Americas, Floods & Storms, News Headlines

CARACAS — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez plans to govern temporarily from a tent given him by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi after inviting families made homeless by recent torrential rains to live in his palace.

The worst rains in a decade have wrought havoc in South America’s top oil exporter, killing more than 30 people and leaving homeless more than 100,000 people from coastal villages and city slums.

“Put up Gaddafi’s gift. You can install it in the garden of Miraflores, put it there because I’m going to move into the tent,” Chavez said while visiting a refuge in a poor neighborhood behind the Miraflores presidential palace.

Gaddafi is known for holding court in a large Bedouin tent when on foreign visits and used one when on a trip to the Venezuela Caribbean island of Margarita last year.

Socialist Chavez, an admirer of the African leader who has governed for more than 40 years, moved 25 families into the palace in November and on Friday told aides to speed up preparation to receive another 80 families.

“We can put some beds in my main office,” he said.

Chavez has zig-zagged across the country to supervise humanitarian relief. He is criticized for not building enough new housing during his 12 years in office but blames huge, unstable slums on his free-market predecessors.

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