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CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chavez marked the 200th anniversary of Venezuela's independence movement Monday with celebrations and a gathering of his closest Latin American allies.

Chavez greeted Raul Castro of Cuba, Evo Morales of Bolivia and other leaders as he presided over a parade that included troops, Amazonian Indians carrying bows and arrows, flag-waving supporters and civilians who have joined government militias.

Wearing the trademark red beret of his army paratrooper years, Chavez reiterated his accusations of U.S. government meddling in Latin America while praising Venezuela's move toward democratic socialism.

"The moment has come for us to reach true sovereignty and independence" in the region, Chavez said.

Russian-made fighter jets roared overhead, and special forces troops shouted in unison: "I'm an anti-imperialist socialist!"

Chavez was also hosting a Monday night summit of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Nations of Our America, or ALBA — a left-leaning bloc aimed at boosting Latin American integration and countering U.S. influence.

Venezuela celebrates two dates for independence: April 19, 1810, when revolutionary-minded citizens decided to rule themselves until Spanish King Ferdinand, who had been unseated by France, was restored to the Spanish throne.

More than a year later, on July 5, 1811, Venezuela decided for a more definitive break with Spain and signed an official declaration of independence.


Source: AP

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