Muammar Gaddafi and Hugo Chavez urged nearly 30 leaders from throughout Africa and South America to form a strong intercontinental alliance to make the two regions a new global power.
The Libyan leader, on his first visit to the Americas, called for the two regions to become a political and economic force, saying that together “we can transform the world”.
Mr Gaddafi proposed a defence alliance of South American and African nations, calling it “a Nato of the South” – an idea Mr Chavez has raised with other allies in the past.
Seven South American leaders signed an agreement to create a regional development bank with $20bn (€13bn) in startup capital, and Mr Chavez offered to help create a South-South bank with African countries in the future.
The two-day meeting on Venezuela’s Margarita Island addressed a wide range of concerns, from hunger in Africa to the economic crisis and demands for reforming the United Nations.
Mr Chavez called it “a summit of great importance for the struggles of the South”. Presidents discussed plans for joint projects in energy, mining, agriculture and other areas.
“Only united will we be free,” Mr Chavez said as he opened the summit.
The meeting gave Mr Chavez an opportunity to attempt a greater leadership role outside Latin America while critiquing US influence and promoting socialist-inspired policies.
He said that by uniting, the two regions can confront a legacy of poverty left “by the empires of the North – by the empires of Europe, by the US empire”.
Mr Gaddafi echoed some of Mr Chavez’s concerns about the world’s economic powers in a wide-ranging speech, saying through an interpreter that “colonialism has stolen our riches”.
Without naming any particular countries, Mr Gaddafi also denounced what he called the “politics of the club” used by some nations against others.
Mr Gaddafi made his first visit to Latin America after attending the UN General Assembly in New York, and met Mr Chavez inside a trademark Bedouin tent next to the hotel’s pool.
The Libyan leader said it was “humiliating” that his delegation had to travel 20 hours to reach New York, and held up a map while calling for more air routes between Southern Hemisphere nations.
African leaders including Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe and Algeria’s Abdelaziz Bouteflika greeted Mr Chavez warmly, some with handshakes and others with kisses on the cheeks.
They were joined by South American presidents from Chile’s Michelle Bachelet to Bolivia’s Evo Morales.