“Arriving in Tehran,” Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez declared, “for us is like arriving at one’s home town.” It certainly should be as this is his sixth as President.

The purpose of the visit, Chavez announced was to form with Iran a “common revolutionary front … in the world.

As for patching up relations with President Obama and the U.S. in the run-up to the Fifth Summit of the Americas, to be held in Trinidad and Tobago from April 17-19, Chavez was less positive.

I don’t have much hope, because behind him is an empire. He’s the president of an empire. … Now, I think it’s fair to give him some time. … Seeing is believing,” Chavez said. “I hope President Obama is the last president of the Yankee empire, and the first president of a truly democratic republic, the United States.

Back home in Venezuela, Manuel Rosales, the 2006 opposition candidate for the Venezuela presidency against Chavez and mayor of the second largest city, Maracaibo has gone into hiding. Rosales reportedly cannot account for what prosecutors say is $60,000 in missing funds while he was governor of oil-rich Zulia, an amount that would be chump change in terms of Venezuelan corruption.

Rosales clearly faces an uphill battle to stay out of jail and clear his name. Vowed Chavez last year during the electoral campaign, “I’m determined to put Manuel Rosales in jail.

In Venezuela, Chavez generally gets what he wants. Venezuela’s Information Minister Jesse Chacon, nonetheless, urged fugitive Rosales to step forward and surrender. “This has nothing,” Chacon reassured the press, “to do with the political issue.”

Notes Freedom House in its latest report on Venezuela, “the effectiveness of the judicial branch remains tenuous, and the level of politicization has increased.”

Because the essentially one-party legislature Chavez controls has a stranglehold on the judiciary, outcomes are easily tailored to conform to Chavez’s wishes.

Reports the U.S. State Department in the most recent Human Rights report, before the [November 2008 state and municipal elections,] “the comptroller declared some 272 current and former public officials ineligible to run for office based on administrative sanctions. These measures disproportionately affected the opposition, including several prominent opposition candidates.

Let’s hope rule of law and judicial independence are somewhere on the Summit’s agenda.