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Chavez hails Putin's "great victory"

When Chavez decides to friend you, bad things can happen
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Going in for the bro-hug. (ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)

The Russian prime minister had better watch out.

The last time Chavez, the Venezuelan president, expressed fervent support for a leader under fire, things didn't turn out so well.

Not that Russia's enduring a rebellion like the old Libyan leader.

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Chavez brings home his gold

CARACAS — “The Yankees are broke,” Chavez said. “They have no money to pay their debt ... Shall we give Obama a loan?” 

Chavez makes another grab

The Venezuelan leader is on a nationalization tear ahead of the 2012 vote
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Venezuelans shave their heads in solidarity with Chavez. (Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images)

Hugo Chavez just grabbed some more land.

According to El Universal, the Venezuelan president just took over 34,595 acres of land in central Venezuela.

He threw in some pig farms, too, for agrotourism, the government said.

“We have to seize lands from there to here, through all these valleys, to fight large estates,” Chavez said. 

Chavez is known for his tendencies to nationalize private enterprises, ostensibly for the good of the state. It also appears to be a kind of game. He likes to appear on television, pointing at things and shouting, "Expropriate it!" to cheers from the audience. 

Read more: Chavez eyes luxury yachts

It's a populist move, of course, in a country that still has high levels of poverty. Chavez is an artful populist. When it was revealed the president had cancer and had shaved his head as he underwent chemotherapy, supporters turned out to see hi, their heads shorn in solidarity.

The president is also facing reelection in 2012. He's almost certain to win, but it can't hurt to garner a little more popular support with a fresh round of expropriations.

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Chavez on death of Gaddafi, a "martyr"

Hugo Chavez and the former Libyan leader were close friends
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Chavez presented Gaddafi with the Order of the Liberator, Venezuela's highest honor, in 2009. (Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images)

CARACAS, Venezuela — One of Muammar al Gaddafi’s few friends on the international stage has said that the former Libyan leader will be remembered “as a great fighter, a revolutionary and martyr.”

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez described the killing of Gaddafi as a “murder,” before slamming the U.S. and its allies. “The story in Libya is just beginning,” Chávez said. “The Yankee empire cannot master the world. The worst thing is that in their efforts to dominate the world, the empire and its allies are burning.”

Chavez arrived back in Venezuela today after medical tests in Cuba, which he claims have given him the all clear. “I am free of illness,” the president confidently declared. “Chavez is back!”

That Chavez of old will be looking forward to presidential elections next October and his rhetoric will no doubt return to its previous magnificence. Just today, on a pilgrimage to a Catholic shrine, Chavez said: “It would be easier for a donkey to pass through the eye of a needle than for the opposition to win the elections.”

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Chavez loses a friend in Gaddafi

Chavez had written encouragement to the Libyan leader, telling him, "Win or die."
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Muammar al-Gaddafi, and Chavez, his friend to the end. (Mahmud Turkia/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, who was confirmed killed on Thursday, didn't have a lot of friends.

He was never really welcomed in the circle of Arab leaders, who considered him more of an African than one of them. When Gaddafi turned south, he found few supporters among African leaders. 

All that makes Gaddafi's friendship with Hugo Chavez even more particular. Venezuela's president has been a staunch ally of Gaddafi from the beginning. 

Chavez has been battling cancer, flying to Cuba regularly for medical care. He returned on Thursday from Havana after another round of treatment, but didn't have anything immediately to say about his friend's death.

But as the rebellion in Libya began, Chavez was out front, condemning the uprising.

As other leaders slowly began to recognize the transitional government, Chavez made a point of declaring that he would not recognize the rebels. In March, Chavez offered to try to broker a truce between the two sides. The rebels turned him down.

When Tripoli fell, Chavez released yet another statement upbraiding the rebellion as "imperial madness." But there would be more.

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Chavez's challengers

Can any of these guys beat Hugo?
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Chavez speaks on his favorite subject. (Leo Ramirez/AFP/Getty Images)

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez doesn't go away easily. Since he came into office in 199, he's been reelected twice, beaten a recall referendum and a coup.

Now he’s facing another poll next year. Chavez is still popular, and his pro-poor, socialist agenda has helped to reduce poverty. His critics charge him with implementing unsustainable policies, and inappropriately favoring those who support him — and working to censor those who don’t. 

Here's a look at the challengers:

Henrique Capriles: The governor of Miranda state, Capriles is currently at the top of the polls among the other opposition candidates. He’s also encroaching on Chavez’s support, which is a feat for an opposition politician.

A survey released this week by the Caracas-based polling firm Datanalisis showed Capriles with about 36 percent support to Chavez's 38 percent in a two-way matchup. The late July survey of 1,300 Venezuelans had a margin of error of 2.7 percentage points.

Leopoldo Lopez: The opposition politician had been banned by Chavez from running for president. That ruling was recently overturned by the Inter-American Human Rights Court, a regional body. It’s not a binding decision, though, and Chavez didn’t seem too impressed. In classic form, he laughed it off with a joke:

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Venezuela's squatter city

CARACAS — The unfinished 45-story office tower looming over this capital city lacks plumbing, elevators and walls. It's also home to more than 2,500 people.

Nicaragua would welcome Gaddafi

Venezuela isn't the Libyan leader's only friend in the region.
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Ortega (far left) standing with his man, Gaddafi (Mahmud Turkia/AFP/Getty Images)

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi still has a few friends left in Latin America.

We know that Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s charismatic president, supports him because he can't stop talking about it. 

With the Libyan rebels firing celebration guns in Tripoli, Chavez came out with a second statement that said he refused to acknowledge any government in Libya but that of his friend. "Without a doubt, we're facing imperal madness," Chavez said in his televised address, according to the Associated Press.

And now, Nicaragua has chimed in. 

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Hugo Chavez takes the gold

The Venezuelan leader nationalizes another industry.
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Hugo Chavez salutes his people. (Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images)

Looks like Hugo Chavez is already delving into his bag of pre-election tricks.

Chavez announced this week that he would nationalize the gold industry, and ordered home some 200 tons of gold the country had stored with European and American banks. The decision was taken in part, he said, because of the U.S. debt crisis and fears of instability in Europe. Chavez argued that the gold would be safer at home or with allied countries, such as China.

“I agree with bringing that home,” Chavez said on state television, according to Bloomberg. “It’s a healthy decision.”

Chavez already has plenty of cash—Venezuela sits on the largest oil reserves in the world. But with presidential elections coming next year, Chavez may also be looking to secure other assets as he prepares for his campaign. 

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Stripped of his powers, Caracas’ mayor still tries to run a city

CARACAS — With Hugo Chavez dominating Venezuelan politics, opposition leaders have had a hard time gaining traction.
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