Crusading US singer and activist Harry Belafonte has praised Venezuelan President HUGO CHAVEZ for his charitable efforts to help poverty-stricken families in America.

The South American politician has put aside his well-publicised condemnation of US President George W Bush, to aid low income homes by providing cheap heating oil through the country's state-run oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, and its Houston, Texas-based affiliate.

Belafonte, a United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) goodwill ambassador, praised the leader on a tour of the country with a civil rights delegation, which kicked off on Monday (02JAN06).

He said, "This generosity that has been offered to the United States says very much about the Venezuelan spirit."

The calypso-inspired hitmaker, 78, will meet the President Chavez in person during his week-long visit.