His stated intentions were
good and his going to shake hands with Chávez was an extremely wise
maneuver. Symbolically it immediately said to all the leaders present
that he was looking for a new relationship with the rest of the
But returning to the U.S., he was immediately faced with a barrage of
criticism. The most memorable photo of the Summit will be that of
Obama and Chávez; and, if one has an insatiable hatred of Chávez that
photo is unforgivable. Thus Obama has had to defend his actions and in
general, I believe, has done reasonably well.
However, if he was really listening to what the others were saying at
the meeting, there is one statement regarding Venezuela that he should
never have made after returning to the U.S. He said that he was
concerned about the interference of Venezuela in the affairs of
neighboring countries. Such a statement only merits a roar of
laughter. That the president of the United States, which has a long
history of intervention, should accuse another country of the Americas
of such an action is absolutely hilarious.
One of the great themes of the Summit was the request that the U.S.
respect the sovereignty of the other nations. It is unfortunate that
the book Chávez gave Obama, The Open Veins of Latin America, was in
Spanish. If Obama could have read it on his return trip to the U.S.,
he would never have made such a statement.
Moreover, what was he referring to when he spoke of Venezuela’s
interference in other countries? The free eye operations that
Venezuela has provided for hundreds of thousands of persons from many
countries of the Americas? Helping other countries in building roads,
providing better housing, and improving electrical services? The
opposition in Venezuela doesn’t think the government should help people
in other countries. Does Obama agree with them?
Responding to President Obama’s remarks, a woman at a Caracas newsstand
said to me, “He’s just a kid. Give him time to grow up.” Maybe he is
and hopefully he will grow. More importantly, hopefully he will
discover that he is in charge of setting the direction for the foreign
policy of the U.S. and not his advisors and even less the press and
members of the Republican Party.
Obama’s handshakes and attitude at the Summit were excellent.
Hopefully he realizes that and won’t pay too much attention to his