April 20th, 2009
11:31 AM ET
11 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. Bill

    I think he should stay in the White House and not talk to anyone else in the world to prove that he is the smartest guy out around. OH WAIT, that is what Bush did, wonder how that worked out for the United States?!

    April 20, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  2. Welcome Socialists

    What a shock, the socialist leader of the USSA smiling at the socialst leader of another country.

    Why is anyone shocked? This IS what the less forward thinking citizens of this country wanted, isn't it?

    April 20, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    People in Latin America are suffering. That much is plain. Our foreign policies of the past 50+ years have not succeeded...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. They 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 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  4. Lynn

    Stephen Hayes is NOT an analyst: he is a political mouthpiece for the Republicans. He struggles daily on Blitzer's show to find something to criticize the president about. For CNN to call him a "political analyst" is nothing short of bizarre. What these Republicans fail to add is how one of their socalled "leaders" would have done!!

    I would like to know exactly who the Republicans sees as our allies: Canada and Europe are so called "socialists", Mexico is corrupt; Latin America is full of dictators; the UN is obsolete; Russia is a threat...

    April 20, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  5. JP

    In my opinion, the security and pride of the Nation should come first, and the campaign promises and political gains should come second.
    The untimely de-classification of Memos is a troubling example.

    April 20, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  6. Darron R. Brown MD

    There is a certain segment of American society that will criticize President Obama no matter how hard he tries to resolve the economic crisis we have been in for 24 months, tries to heal the rifts between the United States and other countries that developed over the past several years, and tries to help nearly 40 million Americans obtain some form of health insurance. These individuals who are so critical have no real answers to our nation's problems. Instead, they are being led on by a group of politicians and entertainers who appear to be bent on denigrating this administration at any cost.

    April 20, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  7. Kevin in Ohio

    @Judy Fraser April 20th, 2009 12:24 pm ET:
    "I'm sick and tired of the relentless scrutiny of Pres. Obamas every move."

    What do you think President Bush endured from the left for eight years????????????

    April 20, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  8. jim/redondo beach

    ...did Nixon smile at Mao when he "opened the door" to China in the 70's?...

    April 20, 2009 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  9. brian, biloxi, ms

    Republicans are just totally frustrated how intelligent, articulate, classy, good looking PRESIDENT OBAMA really is, he's truly the leader of the free world. We just had eight years of total contrast, get use to it "TEA PARTY", because grace will be amoungst us until what...2016, we are in excellent hands!

    April 20, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  10. Joe in NJ

    "Ric April 20th, 2009 12:34 pm ET

    Remember that the United States imports over 900,000 barrels of oil from Venezuela every day. "

    Exactly. It's all about the oil except everyone is too stupid to see this.

    April 20, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  11. Recovering Republican

    It's funny that all the Republicans missed the hippocracy here.
    Chavez said ""With this same hand I greeted Bush eight years ago"

    I guess that doesn't count though when you're a "Dittohead". How about we talk about the handholding, lip-smacking, rose garden walk that Bush took King Abdula on in Texas. They kissed (on the lips) six times!!! And Obama gets crap about a little bow.

    April 20, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  12. carol

    How much Power did Chavez take away from America yesterday. Lets all grow up!!

    April 20, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  13. Andi

    I see....after the fact and after the GOP got their two-cents in, these experts are going to tell us what the President should have done instead? This is so bizarre. What a weird country we have become. It's trippin' me out.

    We used to be free and we used to help others. We're trying it again, but some of us think we should go back to being bullies.

    I sure wish women ruled the world. Either that, or I wish men could get pregnant. That would shake things up a bit, eh?

    April 20, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  14. Pioneer

    I suppose the pundits think he should have stood up and taken a swing at him.
    If you are the President and in a room filled with other leaders. If one of them comes up to you and gives you a book. Being polite it the order of the day.
    His Grandmother would have been proud of his manners.

    To bad the caption isn't up on the Anderson Cooper caption of the day contest.
    the picture should read
    "Probably not reading this to my kids"

    April 20, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  15. bj, Texas

    Legitimizing a tyrant in the eyes of the World - a simple handshake. A photo of two socialists sharing common goals - priceless.

    April 20, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  16. Mark Cross Junction VA

    You sympathetic or pathetic individuals should realize he is a criminal that participates in terrorist acts and god forbid human right violations for you liberal bastards. Being a adult has nothing to do with this, Obama loves kissing ass and downing America. I can't wait until he apoligizes to Germany for US and allies invading Berlin to kill Hitler. But i'm sure Obama would have shaken hands with Hitler.

    April 20, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  17. Jay

    C'MON PEOPLE... ITS NOT LIKE HE WAS SHAKING HANDS WITH OSAMA BIN LADEN!!! Its called being respectful!! You guys just need to stop being so negative towards him

    April 20, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  18. Dale

    Why is it that when Regan offered his hand to Gorbachev the Republicans thiught it was a great move. But when Obama does the same with Chavez it's the worst thing he could do.

    The Republicans can't stand the fact that Obama has already managed to repair some of the damage Bush and the Republican party did to the reputation of America during his administration.

    The Republicans are so narrow minded and archaic in their thinking it's sad. They really are the party of "No".
    – No new ideas.
    – No new leaders
    – No new direction
    – No to the middle class
    – No to anyone who doesn't think like them

    April 20, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  19. Chi Town

    Chavez should have been briefed it's an insult to offer your right hand

    April 20, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  20. K

    Yes, it wasn't just the handshake, it was the smiling and worse, the picture of the two and the "bro-shake"...far too familiar and comfortable than he should be, it's alarming!

    Vet in Texas: Would it have been better if Bush bowed to the "King" like your master did? One can't be OK, while the other is not "Vet"...

    April 20, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  21. Earl

    He should told Chavez, he (Chavez) is not his friend and he will not be allowed to play on the playset or play with BO. That would bring the US outside isloation, NOT. I am glad to see that Obama is bigger than that.

    April 20, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  22. Josh, Pittsburgh, PA

    *rolls eyes*

    Typical GOP response with nothing new to offer.

    Listen Republicans... I know this whole "diplomacy" concept is new to you. But if you bare with us, we just may be able to solve our differences without having to jump into another unnecessary war.

    Watch and learn.

    April 20, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  23. Joe

    Gee, maybe he should smile, but not shake hands. Or shake hands, but not smile. Or standup and shake hands but not smile, or remained seated but shake hands but not smile. Or stand up and smile but not shake hands. How much sillier can all this over analysis and uninformed pontificating get? Do we need any more evidence of how utterly devoid of creative ideas his self-appointed critics are?

    April 20, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  24. ArtNYC

    ""David Gergen, CNN's senior political analyst, said Obama is trying to make good on that pledge.

    "I think most political advisers would tell the president, you know, it's fine to shake hands, hold the smiles," he said, adding that the gesture shows some inexperience on Obama's part. ""

    April 20, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  25. Don

    Don't be fooled, Chavez is wanting his stimulus check also. Wonder what else will Obama want to take from the rich and give to the poor?

    April 20, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
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