Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday that relations between his nation and the United States can only improve under an Obama presidency, and he is ready to collaborate on issues such as drug trafficking, terrorism, and energy. Carora, December 14, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com)-- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday that relations between his nation and the United States can only improve under an Obama presidency, and he is ready to collaborate on issues such as drug trafficking, terrorism, and energy.
"There are winds in favor of relations between the Venezuelan government and the new president of the United States, Barack Obama. We must try energetically and with good faith to improve relations, and I am ready to do it," Chavez said on a Sunday political talk show, Jose Vicente Today, broadcast on a private television station.
"But we can't be naïve," Chavez continued, "worse than [relations] under Bush, impossible, but we must be cautious because Obama is the president of the empire, and all of its machinery is still intact." Chavez began to refer to the U.S. as the "empire" in the years following the Bush administration's recognition of the two-day coup regime in April 2002.
Chavez spoke positively of Obama´s recent cabinet appointments.
"For example, the Secretary of Commerce, Bill Richardson, was here in Venezuela in the middle of the campaign and brought a message of reconciliation, so you could say that we have faith that relations are going to improve," Chavez explained.
"The appointment of Mrs. Clinton as Secretary of State creates some prospects," Chavez stated. "I am ready to personally deal with the president of the United States and his representatives, but with respect."
He recalled a White House meeting with former president Bill Clinton, and a subsequent bilateral meeting at the UN, saying, "With Clinton there was never, ever a lack of respect."
The Venezuelan leader also highlighted areas of possible future cooperation between the two nations.
"We are ready to work government to government on the energy issue, to combat drug trafficking," Chavez said. "We could even create a new agreement with the [U.S.] Drug Enforcement Agency [DEA]."
Chavez expelled the DEA from Venezuela in 2005, citing evidence it was working to undermine his government, and Bolivian President Evo Morales banned the DEA in 2008, making similar allegations.
"We are in agreement with the fight against international terrorism," Chavez declared, "and we are ready to work with the U.S. government, but of course only when the sovereignty of our country is respected."
A day earlier, Chavez called on Obama to extradite terror suspect Luis Posada Carriles, who is wanted in connection to the bombing of a Cuban airplane that killed 73 civilians in 1976.
"President Obama, send us the terrorist that we're requesting. He should be in prison and not free on the streets of the United States." Chavez declared.
Posada escaped from a Venezuelan prison while awaiting trial and appeared in the United States years later, where officials have thus far declined Venezuela's extradition requests. President-elect Obama has yet to issue a statement on the matter.
Additional reporting by Antonina Weber