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Venezuelan Leader Arrives in Spain

October 24, 1999

MADRID, Spain (AP) _ Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez arrived in Madrid on Sunday for a two-day visit scheduled to include meetings with Spain’s leaders and a tribute to one of his personal heroes.

Chavez arrived from Bombay, India, aboard a Qatar plane provided for him after the aircraft he had been traveling on from the Philippines lost a wheel.

On Sunday in Madrid, he was scheduled to lay flowers at a statue of Simon Bolivar, the 19th century South American revolutionary who fought Spanish rule. He was also planning to meet Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and King Juan Carlos during the visit.

Chavez just wrapped up a two-week tour of Asia during which he defended his constitutional reforms in Venezuela. He also has been touting recession-plagued Venezuela as a safe bet for visitors and foreign capital.

``There is now security in Venezuela for foreign investors and tourists,″ Chavez, who took office in February, told state radio RNE as he arrived at Madrid’s Barajas International Airport.

The former coup leader took office in February. He quickly created political upheaval, scrapping a constitution he said had allowed corrupt leaders to rule the country for decades. A powerful assembly is drawing up a new constitution.

Some observers accuse Chavez of eroding the country’s democracy by concentrating too much power in his supporters’ hands and increasing the role of the military.

After his stop in Spain, Chavez is to visit Paris on Tuesday to meet French President Jacques Chirac.

Update hourly