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. Jack in Florida

    You are all making a mountain out of a mole hill........there wasn't this much controversy when Bush shook his hand......It is not like Obama searched him out to shake his hand.......no big deal

    April 20, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  2. Bev

    If your family had been murdered by this brutal dictator, the President of the United States giving him the dignity of a handshake would not be so full of "kumbaya" now would it? Obama is traveling dangerously down the Jimmy Carter path which led us through many dark, dark years of foreign relation nightmares. It took Ronald Reagan to get us out and even to to this day we are fighting Islamic extremists who were born into the hatred that Jimmy Carter created with his "friendship" with the Shah of Iran. Unfortunately, most of your readers are too young to remember those mistakes. Looks like we are going to go down that same error filled path again.

    April 20, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  3. yuri

    A hand shake and a few smiles ain't gonna hurt nobody. We fail to see why a lot of hue and cry is at display by a lot of lazybones who want him to be unsmiling. Most of the GOP gang and a few analysts are acting like a lazy lion with a lot of leerin' loser-flies on its tail.

    C'mon folks, move on to the next subject-peoples' jobs, homes, and health insurances. There are plenty of other political pawns on whom to make caricatures and cartoons. Newt Gingrich, Cantor, Boehner, and other Repubs will provide fodder for fun-filled fotos of flagrant fools.

    April 20, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  4. Audrey

    Is this all we have to worry about, a handshake with or without a smile? Get real!!!

    April 20, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  5. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    Keep your friend close--and your enemies closer BoBo.

    April 20, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  6. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    Keep your friend close--and your enemies closer BoBo-–and never let them see you sweat.

    April 20, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  7. Maggie

    Do some research folks and see what the hand that Obama shook has done in the past 8 years. It may rub off on pres. Obama

    April 20, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  8. Patrick

    We want to be despised for standing up for freedom. Bush was despised by people who didn't want to give their citizens the freedoms that every single human being on earth deserve. I don't want to be friends with a person that imprisons their own people without cause. We must stand up for what's right in this world not justify terrible actions. That's called moral relativism and it's wrong. Obama needs to learn to stand up for something.

    April 20, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  9. Missouri Mom

    How embarrassing. . I don't think even Hilary Clinton would have let this happen. We needed to ensure something like this wouldn't happen BEFORE this meeting occurred.

    April 20, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  10. Bob from Pittsburgh

    As a Latin American my self I can remember the times the USA supported brutal dictatorships in Latin America, dictators that did not support freedom of the press, personal freedoms such as freedom of movement, dictators that murder ,oppress and torture our people, so we applaud President Obama for having the courage to at least listen to our concerns, and opening the door for true opportunities to improve the relations between our countries.
    He has mentioned many times “”Equal Respect””

    April 20, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  11. The Voice of Reason

    We now are being led by one of the greatest statesmen in over a century, and what do the repubs do? They are so jealous they can't help but criticize every little thing he does!

    If they would spend as much time trying to help SOLVE some of the problems in this world, instead of thinking ONLY OF THEMSELVES, maybe this country would not have gotten into such a mess!

    I think all of us (ALL 70% OF US WHO DO APPROVE OF OBAMA) should each take the time to make our thoughts and approval known!

    Take some time each day to contact a blog, or either CNN, or even FOX News, and let everyone out there know that we WANT AMERICA TO SUCCEED! And we want the repubs to spend more time helping American, not trying to tear it down every chance they get!

    Go Obama! (And Go Bo, too!!)

    April 20, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  12. Philip Grant

    Will you Obama haters give it a rest PLEASE!!! I can't take it anymore.
    You're making my head hurt. The first time Chavez walked over to the President and stuck out his hand, what the hell did you expect the President to do?? Slap him in his face?? Turn his back to him??
    What pray tell are you people complaining about??
    The second time, Chavez walked over to the President and handed him a book. What did you expect this time?? Did you want the President to throw the book across the table back at him?? What on earth was he supposed to do other than to politely take the book??
    And please oh please tell me how does this photo diminish the United States of America? Is our military might any less powerfull today than it was last week?? Give me a break!!! If you don't like Obama that's fine with me. Everyone has right to like and dislike whom they choose, but just stop coming up with these crazy reasons for opposition. Make your post short and sweet and to the point. Say something like "I hate this man no matter what" I could appreciate that.

    April 20, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  13. VernisRobertson

    This is why we don't need Republicans in office . Everything this President Obama does gets taking out of contents. What is wrong with shaking a enemy hands if he is our enemy . Then canidate Obama said in his campaign he will reach to other countries , why are people are so suprise. If the Republicans wnat to make a big deal about something , then they should talk about the 5 billions dollars they got from Wall street to de-regulate the stock markets so the could still the american people blind. Shaking Hugo Chavez hand I am willing be that gas won't go back up to $5.00 a gallon.

    April 20, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  14. LLM in MD

    It not easy making ammends with your ENEMY!! Get over yourselves GOP, you didn't have the GUTS to do anything President Obama is doing with our enemies. He is facing our problems instead of running away–that is effective conflict resolution!

    Mr. President, we are behing you all the way!!

    April 20, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  15. Jason B.

    I see it as Obama being polite. And personally, I like his polite ways over Bush's cowboy diplomacy.

    Example: I can't stand Rush Limbaugh. I don't like him or his ideals. But if I meet him in public I can still smile, shake hands, and exchange pleasantries. I don't have to support him, but I can be polite.

    April 20, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  16. Rico

    Thank you President Obama. I appreciate you showing kind gestures to friends, enemies, and potential future allies....it is a very Presidential thing to do.

    Just because Hhugo Chavez didnt like Bush doesnt mean he cant like President Obama.

    April 20, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  17. Jonesy

    Nothing replaces civility and everyone performs for the camera...everyone should just leave it at that. It happens everytime there is a summit. As far as the picture doing harm..and for the 'children' who thinks that the picture does harm, actions speak louder than words .. a picture may fool for minute but the truth is revealed in what you do so the jury is out on both parties...

    April 20, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  18. Kuratali

    Arrogant cowboy antics quickly erased any good will afforded the U.S. after 9/11. What part of that does the gop not understand? The Bush admin's dumb macho behavior and attitude had even our allies thinking we may have deserved those attacks. Now, that we have a President capable of restoring our stature and standing in the world, idiots would rather tear him down. Give the man a chance. I truly think he understands human behavior and how to affect it for the better. We gave little Bush 8 years, at least allow a better man 4.

    April 20, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  19. Hope

    hey Repubs why don't you just go and buy him underwears it seems you want to control our presedents life go aheard and do it. On your way back pass by Victoria secret and grabe some for Michele, Mallia and Sasha too. Go get a life pple

    April 20, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  20. Kristina

    Everyone is forgetting the old saying...." Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer."

    April 20, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  21. Reading in So. Cal

    Our country has proven that ignoring problems won't make them go away. Respect is the only true way to solve problems. Diplomacy won't work without respect. You cannot develop respect without a relationship. That takes time to do. I believe the president is on the right track...even if he did smile while shaking hands with Mr. Chavez.

    ALL of us could learn from President Obama's example. We need to spend more time treating each other respectfully...the way we would like to be treated.

    April 20, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  22. ron

    The phrase "speak sofly but carry a big stick" come to mind.

    April 20, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  23. Kelly

    I swear the Republicans would complain if their ice cream was too cold.

    Don't smile, but be nice. But don't be nice enough to think Chavez likes you.

    What is this? Junior High.

    We've had eight years of arrogance and snubs. Shouldn't you all just listen to the advice your mothers gave you years ago? Play nice and be polite.

    It gets one a heck of a lot more milage then the "yeehaw" cowboy posturing did the last eight years.

    April 20, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  24. cary

    Diplomacy doesn't start with a scowl, unless you're Dick Cheney.

    April 20, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  25. California Gold

    I attend conferences and shake a lot of hands. It's called common courtesy. I don't ascribe anything more to our President's hand shake than common courtesy. Chavez's actions (thrusting a political book on my President when cameras are rolling) speak volumes about Chavez. Does it mean he "scored points"? No. Our President handled the situation appropriately: accepted the "gift" and moved on.

    April 20, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
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