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

Shake hands with Chavez but hold smiles, analyst says

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/04/20/obama.chavez/art.chavez.gi.jpg caption="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. Bill in Austin

    The "right" just doesn't know how to react to having an adult in the White House who has manners and is courteous to others on first meetings. I know that President Obama wishes that he didn't have to clean up this lack of "goodwill" mess that he inherited. It slows him down in furthering the American agenda.

    To those who criticize his initial handling of foreign leaders, you need to take a "manners" class.

    April 20, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  2. artemisios

    By GOP standards, Reagan's shaking hands with Gorbachev must have been appalling. He was obviously some kind of comsymp.

    April 20, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  3. Liberal and Proud of It dot com

    What is this? A kabuki performance? This is the unpretentious leader of an unpretentious people.

    We are an egalitarian people. We respect everyone and we are civil to everyone.

    We are always hopeful that our enemies will have a change of heart. We hope that they will draw up to the table and converse with us in earnest.

    Our Christian heritage makes us always hopeful that the criminal will become an honest citizen, the warrior will put down his arms, and out enemy will sit down with us to talk peace.

    April 20, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  4. Gloria - Minnesota

    I believe President Obama is showing himself to be a statesman who represents the United States of America well. We need to open communications with all nations who have become alienated. That doesn't mean he is agreeing with dictatorships, just that he is ready and willing to open up a dialog!

    I'm proud of our new, young administration!!

    April 20, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  5. Al-NY,NY

    @Phoenix86. Maybe Obama should have given Chavez one of Duh-bya's favorites.."My Pet Goat"

    April 20, 2009 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  6. Rick

    I guess he should have punched him in the face and screamed out of the building.

    GOP in freefall.

    April 20, 2009 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  7. Mike, Atlanta


    Why is it that with our First African-American president alot of critics are trying to say what Presidebt Obama should and shouldn't be doing. "He should fail, he shouldn't smile, don't laugh and or talk with our enemies, don't have hope, he shouldn't try to fix USA's image, shouldn't be bipartisian, never shake hands/bow to show respect to other cultures, stop using the teleprompter so much, blah blah blah etc......

    I have never, ever heard of this type of scrutiny from our former presidents. GET A LIFE PEOPLE AND STOP LIVING UNDER A ROCK!

    April 20, 2009 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  8. Robert

    Republicans just don’t understand DIPLOMACY. It just does not get into their heads.
    Obama is trying to make PEACE not WAR. Nobody wins a war.
    In the unjustified Iraq war more than 4200 US Troops have died. Our economy is in shambles due to the expenditure on Iraq war. We still have the Troops in Afghanistan. This is all because of Bush, Cheney and their Warmonger friends.
    Obama is not trying to bow before Hugo Chavez, the Sheikh of United Arabs Emirates or the Turkish President, as depicted in the press and commented by the Republicans. Obama is only trying to offer a friendly handshake, which is a polite gesture to be friendly and work together for world peace.
    These Republicans don’t just get into their heads that the President of the World’s most powerful country will never bow before minnow.

    April 20, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  9. JediMasterMatt - Bethlehem, PA

    Oh for crying out loud! Doesn't the saying go, 'Keep your friends close and your enemies closer'?

    Everyone just lay off Obama already!

    The replublican political machine has never once followed their mantra of Country First since Obama won the election. They have been trying to tear the man down since day one.

    Where are all those who wanted us to respect Bush when he was President, even though you didn't like his policies....Republicans are so two-faced!

    April 20, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  10. Fan of Common Sense

    The mentor and his protege'.

    April 20, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  11. Pam

    So now we're going to analyze when and if he should smile? What's next...analyzing when and if he should go to the bathroom??

    April 20, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  12. Jerry

    Greetings, comrade!

    April 20, 2009 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  13. awaitingliberalizationbyCNN

    Obama is going to be friendly with his "idol." Hussein is trying to be just like Hugo. Stifle opposition, take over the private industries and become liberal in charge for life. He also likes the Castro brothers in case anyone failed to notice.

    April 20, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  14. Tera in Maryland

    Maybe if the POTUS had slapped Chavez in the face it would make some of you feel better. He shook hands and smiled briefly. People please, your paranoia is starting to show!!!!! The presdient wants to start having better dialogue with world leaders and some of them we don't happen to agree with. Our past policy of non-engagement and nasty rhetoric has gotten us nowhere.

    April 20, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  15. JonDie

    Mr. Obama has a dignity, thoughtfulness and composure that few Republicans can match. That's ONE of the many reasons why Republicans HATE our president and hope he fails, even if it hurts millions of Americans.

    April 20, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  16. Pam

    phoenix86 April 20th, 2009 12:31 pm ET

    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.

    I bet Bush read it thinking it was about him.

    April 20, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  17. pj

    God help us. Obama is scary.

    April 20, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  18. Judith

    Newt if you remember Ex President Reagan did the same to
    Gorbachev.In fact they became good friends.After Reagan passed away Gorbachev visited Nancy and open his arms to her and she walk right in having him hug her.This came out of the mouth of the former First Lady Nancy.

    It's time for Newt along with Rove to go into a different line of work because you both did much damage.

    April 20, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  19. James in Nebraska

    Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.

    April 20, 2009 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  20. Sniffit

    People in Latin America are suffering. That much is plain. Our foreign policies of the past 50+ years have not. People in Latin America still suffer and democracy has not fully taken root. That much is clear. The policies carried out by the Bushtard and Cheneybot further damaged our relationships with several Latin American countries. That much is clear. The shrill cries of conservatives who wish nothing but failure on Obama's administration have risen to the occassion. That much is clear. The are in the minorty, and should their naysaying and hypercriticism prevent complete success and hamper Obama such that his overtures amount to no more than a reset, he has still succeeded. That much is also clear. Whether the GOP will recognize that the inertia generated by its xeonophobia amounts to a sacrifice of progress to perceived political gain...well...that remains to be seen.

    April 20, 2009 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  21. Tim

    Analysts are complaining about President Obama’ handshake and smile with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. But they have nothing to say about Venezuela being the 4th largest importer of oil the United States.
    THESE are the top ten countries that the U.S. imports from:
    1. Canada
    2. Mexico
    3. Saudi Arabia
    4. Venezuela
    5. Nigeria
    6. Angola
    7. Iraq
    8. Algeria
    9. United Kingdom
    10. Brazil

    April 20, 2009 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  22. Rick Washington state

    This is so stupid! I love all the "proper behavior" police out there who criticize his every move. Get over it. He's a nice man. His personality draws people to him. His smile is as much a part of him as anything else. And who knows–maybe by be nice (or at least pleasant) to someone might score big points in the long run. And don't tell me that's not the way a proper American official does things. We put up with Bush for 8 years and see where that got us on the world stage.

    April 20, 2009 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  23. Charm School ...

    So now we've got some twit in the US that is arrogant enough to think he is qualified to be a MONDAY MORNING quarterback for the President of the United States? And then only after some partisan-generated faux outcry by Gingrich and so idiot GOP senator? Give me a break.

    President Obama is a gregarious man, well mannered & polite. Yes he could have given a "half smile" instead of a 3/4ths smile but so what? Now that it has been reveiled that GW Bush shook hands with Chavez, these micro-pundits want to pick at Obama's smile?

    Next they'll be commenting that Barack Obama puts his hand to low on his wife's [Michel Obama's] back when he dances with her.

    I've had enough.

    April 20, 2009 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  24. Kevin in Ohio

    He bows to Kings and smiles at socialist dictators. I am not surprised one bit.

    April 20, 2009 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  25. Oma

    Stop telling the President of the United States how to conduct himself in public.

    April 20, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
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