Despite a fury of rebukes from Republican right-wingers, the Obama administration remains resolute in his willingness to engage Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez. The welcome came on Monday when State Department spokesman, Robert Wood, confirmed the United States is looking forward to a diplomatic rapprochement between the two countries. “We’re looking at it. We think it’s a positive idea,” he said. And he went on to say that “dialogue is what we believe is important. And we will see how things go with regard to President Chavez’ suggestion that we exchange ambassadors.”
Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez, who until now has been the US harshest critique, stole the spotlight during the Summit of the Americas last weekend when he announced his desire to restore diplomatic relations with Washington. At the top of a list of names circulating as possible Venezuelan ambassador to Washington is Roy Chaderton, a former Venezuelan foreign minister.
Barack Obama, being the star of the Summit, could not resist—a blow to Hillary Clinton now Obama’s top diplomat. Mrs. Clinton blasted Obama during the campaign for being too flexible with countries like Venezuela and Iran considered being very hostile to the United States. In September, Chavez expelled the top US envoy in Caracas, prompting a tit-for-tat move from Washington.
The Republicans, who are now struggling to regain grounds lost during the last elections, were quick to jump on the train of criticisms directed at Obama for appearing too friendly while pausing for a picture with Hugo Chavez. Extreme right-wingers like Newt Gingrich and opportunists politicians like Louisiana governor Bobby Jindel, hastily moved to the conservative media, blasting Obama. “It’s quite irresponsible for a US president to be seen laughing and joking with the enemies of America,” said Gingrich on Fox News. He went on to say “that will definitely send a signal to Ben Laden about America’s weakness.”
These statements are full of hypocrisies. During the Cold War, every US administration negotiated to the USSR—a country with the strategic power to obliterate the United States. What strategic threat can Venezuela be vis-à-vis the United States?
However, Obama remains undeterred. “This is a new era in America foreign policy,” he said on Sunday while responding to an army of journalists down in Port-of-Spain, the site of the Summit. The same sentiment was heralded by Obama’s spokesman Robert Gibbs on Monday. Gibbs was gleeful. “Look at what we got just simply out of this weekend. Two years ago, Hugo Chavez (…) wanted nothing to do with being a responsible part of a community of nations. Now engaging in the world, the Venezuelans have, as I understand it, put names forward to put an ambassador back in place here,” he said.
Also see The summit of the Americas: Obama is hopeful