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Russian leftist MPs keen to invite Chavez to Moscow

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Russian Communist lawmakers suggested Friday that Venezuela's left-wing president speak in Russia's parliament about his ambitious reform program.
MOSCOW, June 8 (RIA Novosti) - Russian Communist lawmakers suggested Friday that Venezuela's left-wing president speak in Russia's parliament about his ambitious reform program.

Konstantin Kosachev, head of the State Duma's international relations committee, said the normal practice in parliament's lower house had so far been to invite foreign parliamentary speakers, not heads of state, but that an exception could be made for Chavez, given his high popularity with Russian legislators.

Viktor Ilyukhin, of the State Duma Communist Party faction, said many Russian MPs would like to learn firsthand about the socialist reforms Hugo Chavez is carrying out in his country.

The committee has passed the proposal to the Venezuelan ambassador to Russia, Kosachev said.

In a drive to nationalize industries, Chavez decreed earlier this year that foreign companies hand over control of four multibillion-dollar oil projects in the Orinoco basin, and took over the telephone operator CANTV and other major utilities.

The recent closure of the RCTV channel May 27 sparked mass public protests in Venezuela, after Chavez refused to renew its license replacing it with a new state-owned channel, Tves, aimed at promoting socialist ideology. The move was widely seen as a crackdown on the freedom of speech in the media and condemned by many countries, including the U.S.

But Chavez still enjoys wide popular support, notably for spending much of the country's oil revenue on food and medical subsidies.

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