April 20th, 2009
11:31 AM ET
5 years ago

Shake hands with Chavez but hold smiles, analyst says

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez presents a book to President Obama at the Summit of the Americas.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez presents a book to President Obama at the Summit of the Americas.

(CNN) – President Obama's friendly interactions with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has set off a wave of controversy, but analysts said the leaders' next steps will show if relations have truly improved or if Obama was overstepping boundaries.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez presents a book to President Obama at the Summit of the Americas.

Chavez and Obama were both at the Summit of the Americas, which ended Sunday in Trinidad and Tobago.

On the first day, Obama reached out his hand to Chavez and was seen smiling and patting the Venezuelan leader on the shoulder as the two shook hands.

"With this same hand I greeted Bush eight years ago, I want to be your friend," Chavez said, his office reported.

On the second day, as cameras jockeyed for position, Chavez got up and gave Obama a book, "The Open Veins of Latin America," which documents centuries of American abuse in the region. After the exchange, the book skyrocketed to become one of Amazon's best-sellers.

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Filed under: Hugo Chavez • President Obama
soundoff (203 Responses)
  1. paula Wesley

    Obama is smart. He knows what he is doing. Get off of his back. If you have a better person to lead America, who is it?

    April 20, 2009 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  2. Matt

    Get a life pundits. Obama is opening communication with nations that have not been our biggest fans. This is a GOOD THING. Try diplomacy on for size. We're not at war with these nations so stop acting like we are.

    April 20, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  3. FreeNLovIt

    No deuh!!!! SHould they both start off with bullets or bombs or handshakes? Geez... Give them a break!!!

    April 20, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  4. Ann

    The President cannot breathe without people criticizing him for it. The poor man has been under a microscope from day one and I am quite sick of it.

    April 20, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  5. Kris

    Get a grip folks, this is politics and I would rather he shake hands and smile than create an interntational incident.

    April 20, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  6. Diana NJ

    It is unbelievable that the gop... (and yes know I used lower case) still wants us to act like we are in the school yard... and see who can P.... further than the next king pin.
    In all this time they still don't know when the President Obama smiles.. someone needs to watch out.

    Did they really want him to walk out there, turn his back and look angry.. so as to look strong or stupid.

    April 20, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  7. steve b

    I believe Pres. Obama has good intentions., but he does need to reel in the grinning and pats on the back to everyone he meets. You're the President man, not a greeter at Wallmart.

    April 20, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  8. rich

    Obama needs to understand his world "changed" and he needs to lead...he needs to be the President of The United States..the world is not all "kumbya"... Mr. President...please keep good company and not with dictators

    April 20, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  9. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Chavez despised Bush. Thank goodness we have a President who is willing to reach out. The book was also a gesture of good faith by Chavez. Our tarnished reputation is being mended by President Obama.

    April 20, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  10. NotALemming

    They are both Socialists - why shouldn't they be smiling? Natural friends for sure!

    April 20, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  11. Jared

    First off, Chavez came over to President Obama, so lets get the facts straight. Second, what would you have our President do, snub him in front of the panel and the media? Thats not the change we voted for. And finally, the old generation that was for restoring things to the way they were prior to the New Deal is quickly fading away along with their ideals. We can and will progress in this time and with this new generation.

    April 20, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  12. Fair is Fair

    Why wouldn't he smile? He got an "job well done" handshake from a leftist dictator – the kind of person he admires.

    April 20, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  13. Judy Fraser

    I'm sick and tired of the relentless scrutiny of Pres. Obamas every move. As usual the pundits are making much ado about nothing. I see a Pres. that's gracious and classy. A refreshing change from Bush.

    April 20, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  14. Obama 2.0

    Yea, put on your pitch fork face Obama, be the Republican, be the ball!

    April 20, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  15. E.C.Coleman

    Remember the old saying?
    A picture is worth a thousand words???

    This unprecedented 'photo op for Chavez' has done this country a world of harm...........BUT, it has benefited Chavez in his quest for continued power in Venezuela. Most of that country is illiterate and only understand picture stories.

    This photo of the U.S. president smiling and greeting Chavez and receiving a book will impress upon the people of Venezuela that the United States SUPPORTS Chavez and his peculiar views of human rights and dictatorship.

    What is obama thinking?? He is NOT!!

    April 20, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  16. Tony in Maine

    The handshake and hello is certainly more mature than the scowls and swagger of the previous administration. The grownups are in charge now. Go back to the sand box Newt. You are the past.

    It's also time for the cable news pundits to stop asking questions as though they are lines in a play. We're not interested in their opinion, whether spoken or simply implied by a tone of incredulity.

    April 20, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  17. Dave

    Yeah, the dude just doesn't get it. Which one? BOTH!

    April 20, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  18. Lorraine Hynes

    I am very happy to have President Obama representing ME to the world. For 8 years I was concerned that other countries thought that GWB represented what America was about. By Obama shaking hands, smiling and patting Chavez on the back, he is saying hello, I'm pleased to meet you and I am a polite human being. Whether or not Chavez turns out to be friend or foe is yet to be seen and I don't think we can judge by his reaction to Bush. Obama is doing the right thing. America should not come across as imperious and angry which is exactly how Bush portrayed us for far too long.

    President Obama sets my mind at ease. I'm sure he is, as well as many of us are, not so naive as to think that all will be roses, but he's opening up dialogue and I applaud his efforts.

    April 20, 2009 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  19. Mickey

    The President was cordial and civil. It it comes to it, we can always agree to disagree, but why does hatred have to be part of the relationship.

    April 20, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  20. Michael

    What did President Obama say on inauguration day? "We will extend our hand if you will unclench your fist."

    This man impresses me more and more every day.

    April 20, 2009 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  21. phoenix86

    Obama should have given Chavez the book by Montaner, Vargas and Llosa Mendoza called "El Regreso del Idiota" ("The Return of the Idiot"). Though it is unlikely that Obama or anyone in his administration has even read it.

    April 20, 2009 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  22. Dave

    GOP will make ANYTHING Obama does look like a slap in the face – that's their JOB. Why is anyone surprised when shills like Gingrich are "appalled" or whatever. Ridiculous. Cons would hate Obama for anything. Much made over nothing. Obama is just being a great statesman. Get over it.

    April 20, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  23. Grandma

    Good For Obama , He is showing every body to end hade and start to be kind . After 8 years of madness we forget how humen act talk not war. Go Obama

    April 20, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  24. Sher F. Eugene, Oregon

    I'm so happy that President Obama is our President! I feel alot safer seeing and knowing that we have a leader that is respectful and friendly to the leaders of all countries! What a bunch of lamo's to think one needs to respond all serious-like to those we disagree with! Grow up! We learned to be kind, friendly and respectful to all people in grade school! Hate is a barrier only to the ignorant; which will get us nowhere fast!

    April 20, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  25. pchinyet

    It baffles me how no other head of state is subject to being dictated to, as Barrack Obama is. Now he is being told when to smile. He is a head of state. I think diplomacy is a priority in his job and he has exhibited enough sense and intellect to know how to conduct himself. He appears to be careful in being non-exclusive of anyone. Are we so small minded that everything matters? Allow him to be a head of state – he knows how to act the part.

    April 20, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
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