Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said his country is open to unconditional talks with the new U.S. president, but rejected comments Barack Obama made in a television interview this week. Carora, January 16, 2009 (venezuelanalysis.com)-- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said his country is open to unconditional talks with the new U.S. president, but rejected comments Barack Obama made in a television interview this week.
Chavez read the comments from the president-elect, in which Obama repeated Bush administration claims that Venezuela had “exported terrorism” and interrupted progress in the region.
“How can you say that?” Chavez asked, incredulous. “He is misinformed, repeating what they are telling him. It’s very regrettable.”
“Could it be he’s confusing me with Bush?” Chavez joked, before taking a more serious tone. “Bush has been the one who has interrupted world progress, has sunk it into an abyss.”
Chavez expressed hopes that Obama would stop listening to “far right advisors,” and instead follow the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Chavez noted that Thursday would be the 80th anniversary of King’s birth, eliciting applause from the hundreds of supporters in attendance.
“There is still time for [Obama] to correct these views though,” Chavez added. “We will wait and see, we will know him by his actions. He is really an unknown.”
“If he wants to respectfully talk with Venezuela, we are at his service, but the Venezuelan people must be respected,” Chavez insisted.
Chávez also said, “No one should say that I threw the first stone at Obama; he threw it at me!”
John Caulfield, currently the top U.S. embassy official in Caracas, met Thursday with Venezuelan foreign minister Nicolas Maduro. According to Caulfield, the meeting focused on the “opportunity for a renewed dialogue” between the two nations, whose diplomatic relations have been at a low point since the Sept. 12 expulsion of their respective ambassadors.
Caulfield was recently accused of being involved in a clandestine meeting in Puerto Rico between Venezuelan opposition leaders and an oppositional private television station. Chavez said last week that if Caulfield’s presence at the meeting was confirmed, he would be expelled. The embassy press spokeswoman said he was in Puerto Rico to attend a wedding.
Also on Thursday, the National Assembly’s Foreign Policy Commission received a delegation of labor and peace and justice activists from the United States.
Deputy Roy Daza, president of the commission, considered the meeting a success, explaining that the Venezuelan representatives were very interested to hear about prospects for improved relations between the countries, as well as the situation of workers in the United States amidst the economic crisis that has caused the nation to shed over 2.5 million jobs this year.