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. Rachel

    Dear me...I'm supposed to be concerned about shaking hands? I was taught that that was called being an adult.

    April 20, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  2. vet in texas

    for those who agree with Newt...."With this same hand I greeted Bush eight years ago, I want to be your friend," Chavez said, his office reported.......

    at least he didn't walk hand in hand and kiss him like Bush did the Saudi King (who by the way he's known personally as a friend of the family for years).....

    April 20, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  3. Elwin L. Stewart

    President Obama is showing his maturity and presenting the America I am proud of. Everyone knows that it is best to keep your friends close and your enemies even closer. President Obama is on the right track for our nation.

    This is a difficult time for Republicans as we continue to transition from a sometimes near totalarian government practiced by our last administration to a functional democracy.

    April 20, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  4. Kwesoe

    Republicans are still stuck in the bullish policies of the Bush era that gave legitimacy to people like Chavez. I think Obama has every right to shake hands and smile with anybody, including Chavez. As a wise leader once said: Civility is not a sign of weakness and sincerity is always subject to proof. Good radiance Obama!

    April 20, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  5. Robin

    I was half expecting them to each light up a cigar and congratulate each other of being masters of the world.

    April 20, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  6. Ric

    Remember that the United States imports over 900,000 barrels of oil from Venezuela every day. That's a tankerful every 2 days. Venezuela is the 4th largest supplier after Canada, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia.

    I also supplies over 1,000,000 barrels of petroleum products every day to the US. So America is hugely dependent on Venezuelan oil.

    April 20, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  7. Baze

    As a black man I'm torn by this situation. If you're black or have black roots you're expected to be more sympathetic of impoverished cultures, which I think Obama is suffering from a bit here. I don't believe in Chavez's ideals, and I don't think Obama does either, but as a black man I know that it's tough to turn your back on the liberal ideology that you're expected to have. It certainly doesn't help when in the back of your mind you know that there is a movement of right wing fascists that could care less about your standpoint, and are chomping at the bit to see you go down.

    April 20, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  8. hilary

    Give me a break. This is so ridiculous.

    April 20, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  9. FL voter

    Another "analyst" seems to join the Republican nitpicking every little detail with feigned outraged nonsense. Are smiles not politically correct? Give me a break.

    President Obama handled himself as a statesman among world leaders.

    April 20, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  10. Michael, Torrance, CA

    The opposite approch has not work over the past several years. So, even though I am not a Obama supporter and dissagree with a lot of what he's doing, I for one am will to wait and see what this approch can do. But I would advise Obama to move forward slowly and with caution.

    April 20, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  11. Dennis

    Yeah... listen to the ANALYSTS.

    April 20, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  12. Mike

    Keep your friends closer and your enemies even closer.

    April 20, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  13. Vietnam Vet

    Lets see, Bush smile and sat with the Russian President during the Olympics at the same time Russia was attacking Georgia, Bush smile and sat with the Chinese as they were beating and crushing decents during the same olympics, no complaints, oh yes, they both made some disparging comments about President Bush. Lets see the President shake the hands of Chavez who have no military power was elected democraticaly by the people of his country, yes, I see big problem. This is another one of a group of people who still can't get over the election and are still pulling straws and throwing garbage hoping that some of it sticks. Fat chance!!

    April 20, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  14. eric in texas

    No bow?

    How many hours did he apologize on behalf of America?

    April 20, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  15. Larry

    I'm sure Obama already owns the book and has read it,the book blames America for everything wrong in the world.

    April 20, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  16. sene

    He greeted a democratic elected leader with a smile and handshake people....get over it. This is only the beginning of opening up dialouge between friends and enemies alike. The most important thing is what Presiden't Obama will be able to get from Cuba and Venezuela. I think he is about results.....he knows exactly what he is doing. This is not a dumb man ...trust me.

    Keep doing what we elected you to do Mr.President!!!

    April 20, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  17. talmag

    like I have said before...hold your friends close and enemies closer.
    Obama did the politically correct thing , it would have been rude and arrogant not shake his hand and refuse the book. Other countries would look upon this as another act of conceit and arrogance by our country and would hesitate in the future to hold out their hand. Both are playing political games. Chavez is saying to the world.."See I am trying to be friends." While Obama, smart as he is, is playing the same game by shaking his hand and showing he is also trying to be friends while quietly wondering what he is up to. Don't underestimate our president. He is quite smart and knows what he doing as he did in the pirate hostage situation. Be quite until the captain was safe. We should be proud of him. Besides, Bush shook Chavez' hand and no one thought anything of it. Only the naysayers are making something of this. Give it a rest naysayers....we finally have an intelligent president.

    April 20, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  18. aware530

    Chavez didn't like Bush at all. I believe that he called him the devil. I feel that Obama is getting slack about this because the GOP is upset that Bush was disliked by this person therefore Obama shouldn't be somewhat polite to him.

    April 20, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  19. JJ in Chula Vista, CA

    "Fair is Fair" and "NotALeming", and other anti-American bloggers on here and elsewhere, are jealous that President Obama has done more for the United States in the international political arena than any Republican can dream of doing in 8 years as president.

    In the land of the GOP, jealousy cuts deep into the landscape, and it shows.

    April 20, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  20. Schneider (I) - CA

    Oh I get it...when Bush shakes his hand, it is strategery

    when Obama shakes his hand, it is proof that Obama is the anti-christ

    Thanks for clearing that up Kermit the Frog.

    April 20, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  21. Cooper In Toronto Canada

    Americans in general should be proud of their leader (Pres.Obama) and I understand most do. To those who don't, where have you been? Did you follow the primaries and the general election? Any one who unestimate President Obama politically is a fool and will be caught with his or her pant down.

    April 20, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  22. Some Republican guy

    NotALemming, didn't you get the memo? This week's buzzword is "elitist". "Socialist" is so 2 weeks ago. Have a nice day!

    April 20, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  23. Fran Evans

    "Shake hands but withhold smile." What's with you people? Little of what went on in the Bush administration was seemingly worthy of popular protest or criticism, but almost everything this well intentioned president has tried to do is second guessed and critiqued to death. When the pirates holding the Maersk captain were "subdued", praise for the President was lukewarm at best. Now, he displays basic civility by merely smiling at Chavez when shaking his hand, and the critics have gone wild. Diplomacy involves, in part, acknowledging the positions of others – something Americans never want to do – which, in part explains why the rest of the world secretly hopes we fail. Chavez called Bush a devil. That's his opinion, but for this Obama's critics would have him do what, give the guy the brush off and shut off any opportunity to have future, constructive discourse with him on issues of critical importance to both our countries. The greatest threat to America at this point is not an external danger, but the countless, uninformed citizens who refuse to think critically about anything of importance; who can say with impunity and no criticism at all that they hope the president fails (as if his challenges as President have nothing to do with us); and who continue to believe in the mythology of American, while ignoring that our actions in the name of national policy and security just might have pissed off some of the other nations of the world. I've stopped following the news because I'm so tired of this crap. I hope countless others join me...

    April 20, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  24. Grandma

    Republican please go home and fight with each other and let Obama run the country in love and kindness we need. Also please let your kind not to use our poblic park that make by our taxes to say no more tax, we just see $6.00 tax cut for $100 so we got our tax cut and we happy to pay if Obama ask to improve our country not like you Republican to buy othe vacation house or put it in over sees bank

    April 20, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  25. boered1

    So let me get this straight, bush shook hands with Chaves and that is alright with the RNC
    prsident Obama shakes hands with him and it is a catastrophe

    bush bowed to the king of saudi arabia and that is alright
    president Obama bows to the King of Saudia Arabia and it is a socialist act

    I get it if a republican does it it is good if a democrat does it it is bad... guess all this time me thinking the same standard should be held for all has been a little naieve of me... or is it just that I cannot think in the double standard hating mode of the radical religious right?

    April 20, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
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