Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez welcomed famed Mexican ranchera singer Vicente Fernandez to the Miraflores presidential palace, chatting and singing with the recording artist and honoring him with the Order of the Liberator.
"I'm very pleased ... it's a great honor to receive a visit from this titan, let's put it that way. He's a titan in the deepest sense among our peoples, not only the Mexican people, also the Venezuelan people and the peoples of our America and the world," Chavez told reporters.
The leftist head of state, who met for nearly an hour on Wednesday with Fernandez along with his foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, ended the gathering by belting out a few lines from the Mexican artist's famed tune "Ay Jalisco, no te rajes" (Hey, Jalisco, Don't Back Down!).
The 72-year-old Fernandez, who announced his impending retirement in February and is bidding farewell to his Venezuelan fans with his "La Despedida" tour, did not speak with reporters after his meeting with Chavez.
The singer gave a concert Saturday at the bull ring in the western city of San Cristobal and will perform Thursday night in Caracas at Simon Bolivar University's soccer stadium.
Chavez said he bestowed the Order of the Liberator, Venezuela's highest distinction, on Fernandez and said the singer's voice resounded throughout the presidential palace.
"He made Office 1 shake. Good thing it's earthquake-resistant," the president joked.
Fernandez, an emblematic figure in Mexico's traditional ranchera music, has recorded more than 100 albums over his 45-year career, received numerous honors and sold more than 65 million records. EFE