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. Pip

    It's so nice to see some change in our foreign policy! This is exactly what people voted for when they meant CHANGE. Someone who will act like an adult for a change. Obviously we have entirely different policies, but that doesn't mean two people can't act like adults and work through it all. Stamping your feet in defiance is something children do. Children who were picked last for the kickball game because they're so pessimistic and negative. They will never have a team captain again.

    April 20, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  2. warren lafray

    Oh come on do we really have to micromanage this guy to this extent.
    You mean there is an analyst getting paid to make these observations. It's Absurd

    April 20, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  3. gl, Pittsburgh

    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.

    YES, Those are his very words and he showing that he is a man of his word. Nothing the President do will please the GOP so let just move on with out them.

    April 20, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  4. C W

    Maybe the reason Bush was never able to be cordial with Chavez is because, despite all his swagger, "Mission Accomplished" banners and "Bring it on" rhetoric, he was really a wimp.

    It takes courage and confidence to look your adversary in the eye. It also takes intelligence and maturity. Everything Obama has and Bush will never in his wildest dreams.

    April 20, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  5. Melody Chapin

    Let's face it any good that President Obama does is going to be criticised by the republicans. This is just evidence that the GOP members are envious of President Obama's success at diplomacy. Some of the statements made by GOP members when criticising President Obama remind me of high school when girls would demean other girls out of jealousy.

    April 20, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  6. Scott the Independent

    What the analyst need to do is cut the crap. Since Nixon we have had a fail foreign policy under Nixon, Ford, Regan, Bush and Bush. Iran was once our ally; Haiti was once our child under our wing; Vietnam was a disaster; Iraq has been one lie after another; Afghanistan was a major deception and Bin Laden is still free. Nothing has been working and not one "analyst" seem to remember the facts as they really were and are. Something you all need to remember – you catch more flys with honey than you do with vinegar. That's just common sense.

    April 20, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  7. guythegood

    To beleive the "analysts" and Bush-loving- reich-wingers Obama should also have his other hand in his back with fingers crossed. I trust your president ( I am not American ) particularly in comparison to the sack of human garbage that occupied the office previously.

    Ensign is a right wing retard. On one hand, don't mess with ( democratically elected ) "Dictators" like Chavez but then don't release memos detailing American torturing. Same goes for the ex CIA guy; or should I say former Lead Torturer from the Bush era.


    April 20, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  8. gl, Pittsburgh

    Many Americans claim that we are, or should be, a Christian nation, while seeming to forget that Jesus commanded us to "Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you." I do not see how we can be followers of Jesus unless we live as He lived. Our Lord and Savior did not kill his enemies; He prayed for them and even died for them.

    April 20, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  9. marvinj

    "Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent"

    We as american need to rethink some of this super tough talk thats spewed out about others. Or greed and ignorance has placed us in the position of becoming increasingly the exploited and weekened. The tricks of old have been turned around on this country the rest of the world are now using those same tricks of greed and explotation that we've used around the world, to destroy this country.

    And greedy politicians and business types are allowing it.
    And they say they love this country (they love a dollar bill more)

    April 20, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  10. Pecola

    So "enemies of America" are going to use the endorsement of an American president as proof of Chavez' legitimacy? Wouldn't this moment serve to lower their estimation of Chavez? Wouldn't they be ashamed to see the leader they support smiling and shaking hands with Obama? Doesn't this embolden those Venezuelan politicians and voters who seek a productive, peaceful relationship with the U.S.?

    April 20, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  11. Jeannie Danna

    What is wrong with President Obama Shaking hands with Hugo Chavez, TELL ME !!
    Because for the last EIGHT YEARES , I have watched as time after time, FORMER President Bush walked around in front of the press, HOLDING THE SAUDIS HANDS !!!
    PRESIDENT OBAMA WON ! In fact America , YOU WON ...

    April 20, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  12. good guys bad guys

    easy to put them in those categories, but how to move out of a particular category?

    April 20, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  13. Scott

    Oh my god...how stupid. Why is CNN lowering itself to FOX Noise with this? Where was all this scrutiny when Bush shook his hand. Or how about when Reagan shook Gorbachev's hand, or Kennedy with Kruschev? At a diplomatic function not shaking a country's leader's hand would be a huge international incident. So President Obama shook Chavez's hand and smiled......GASP!!! I swear when is someone going to start calling things like they are.....a buncha BS!! This is not an incident and its certainly not worth the last several days of being in the news. For the last fifty years Presidents of the U.S. have been shaking hands of Communist Leaders. WAKE UP!!!

    April 20, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  14. J Fiveash

    E. Coleman wrote:

    "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."

    Perhaps a little research would have shown that the literacy rate in Venezuela is 93%. Sometimes I think that despite a literacy rate of 99%, Americans understand very little about the rest of the world.

    A standoff attitude toward the world hasn't solved any of our problems. Mr. Obama is showing that listening shows potential and has NO downside.

    April 20, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  15. It's a Red Herring

    April 20th, 2009 12:21 pm ET

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

    ...Ah, and your boy Bush was a dictator – "Your either with us or against us!" If you're going to tell it, then tell the whole story!

    April 20, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  16. AEK

    Where I was raised, if a man extends his hand, it is accepted. It doesn't have any more significance than that. It is a polite, adult thing to do. Not surprised so many Republicans like The Newter and Rush Laimbrain are having trouble with that concept. Adult and polite, not a couple of qualities I would associate with either of them!

    April 20, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  17. mary

    How is Obama going to get Chavez and other nuts like him to the table for serious discussion if he gives them a cold shoulder? We should stop our arrogance and understand that other people have brains also. I remember how very happy some Americans were when Bush wouldn't shake hands with Chirac and Rumsfeld referred to old Europe. Where have those things landed us? We need to be human enough to interact with others. we aren't living in a bubble!

    April 20, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  18. Richard L

    That one smile did more for achieving peaceful relations with the people of Venezuela than 8 years of saber-rattling from Bush.

    April 20, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  19. Great distruction

    One thing is for sure, Mr. Obama is NO dummy like the previous President. Look at the picture before he even shake the man hand, he is looking at what kind of book is being handed to him. Not only did he look at it, he immediately opened the book to see what it inteled. People, please realize that Mr. Obama has been in this game long enough to know the snakes and hidden agendas. The scriptures says, No your enemies and his tactics and that's exactly what Mr. President is doing. Just watch him in action, you will see just how blessed we are to have this man as President.

    If we can stop critizing the man on every move he make, and allow him to make decisions without being slammed before it comes out of his mouth. Boy, had we watched old Bush as much as we are watching this man, we wouldn't be is this terrible fix in the first place. Maybe I'm wrong, but I believe Washington knew all along what Bush was doing and just allowed him to do whatever he wanted because they had investments in Bush and his hand railed policies as well.

    Don't be angry at the present President, you people should be angry at your leaders in Washington, who watch this country go down the tank due to their own political gain.

    April 20, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  20. Biased

    Oh my...poor Obama...can't take any sort of criticism according to your supporters. Are you that fragile that you have to be defended from even the hint that someone might say they thought the handshake was over the top and a little too zealous or firendly? Is all discourse now, Democrats, relegated to the fact that everything that Obama does must be discussed in positive terms only? Is this the change you promised?

    And to Jared..read this from the news – Obama walked across a hotel meeting room to meet Chavez for the first time, said a senior U.S. administration official who witnessed it and spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the details of the event. The official said Obama initiated the encounter.

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

    A president acted diplomatically towards a fellow national leader. It doesnt matter that Chavez is a terrible leader who should be handily kicked out. But it does matter whether or not you will let him alter good manners.

    April 20, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  22. mike,texas

    Wow a the president of one country shaking the hands of another,how novel.After 8 years of failed diplomacy by the republicans their reaction to the hand shaking is not surprising.Remember GOP is the"Good Ol Party".Like the Good Ol Days of horse and buggy ,this party is over.Sarah Palin is the best they got,cased closed.

    April 20, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  23. Steve, New York City

    Ah yes – don't smile, don't sneeze, be careful to stick your right foot in front of your left. . . . are these consultants for real?

    April 20, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  24. barking republican ankle biters

    Exxon Mobil doent like it,they lose market shares to the competition.Good for them.

    April 20, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  25. Brina

    the pundits, gop and talk radio people need help and home training.

    April 20, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
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