CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez met with Syrian President Bashar Assad on Saturday and called on Latin America and the Arab world to fight what he called America’s imperialist and capitalist interests abroad.

During a meeting at Venezuela’s presidential palace, Chavez told Assad it was an honor to host the Syrian leader on his first visit to Latin America.

“Arab civilization and our civilization, the Latin American one, are being summoned in this new century to play the fundamental role of liberating the world, saving the world from the imperialism and capitalist hegemony that threaten the human species,” Chavez said. “Syria and Venezuela are at the vanguard of this struggle.”

Assad praised Chavez for standing up to the U.S.

“There are few politicians who are courageous to speak out when it’s necessary,” he said. “Chavez has projected the image of a resistant Venezuela.”

Chavez is perhaps Latin’s America’s most outspoken critic of the United States, lashing out at the U.S. government for purportedly conspiring against him and meddling in the region’s affairs.

The socialist leader also condemned the U.N. Security Council for tightening sanctions against Iran and warned Washington against starting a war with his ally, saying: “Don’t make a mistake with Iran.”

Chavez has built close diplomatic relations with Syria, Iran and other Middle Eastern countries while severing Venezuela’s ties to Israel. Last year, he visited Syria, where he called Israel an imperialist nation that annihilates its neighbors and accused its government of doing Washington’s bidding by trying to divide the Middle East.