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. dave

    President Obama grew up in different cultures and he knows all too well you can not tell people what to do or be~

    April 20, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  2. William

    Bush's Americans and political crew are showing how immature they are today. To talk as if a handshake and a smile shows weakness is retarded. No such manner has never led to any negative or weak position in foreign policy. When I think about it...every REPUB has said something similar to the following for almost every decision Obama makes..."This will be devastating to his political career and the American people will be angry"...lol. They have said since day 1 and Americans are still on his side. Please...repubs...just be patient and wait for the results. Then provide your thoughts. And Please, pundits...become real journalists again and just provide the story and the facts...quit the opions and angles in your columns.

    April 20, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  3. ck

    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad prompted a walkout from his speech to a U.N. racism summit on Monday

    Ahhh yes, THIS is the one Obama is buddying up to....


    April 20, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  4. Jackie

    give me a break....that's why the whole world hate america. because of people in the republican party. so what if he shakes his hand? it's better than getting a shoe thrown at him!

    April 20, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  5. Lillie

    Is there anything Pres. Obama can do to please the right-wing of the GOP?

    April 20, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  6. Veteran in Kansas

    I am confused, how could the President of the United States, the man who has the Consitutional responsibility for conducting foreign relation be overstepping anything by shaking hands and smiling at a elected national keader. It's called diplomacy, and extending the open hand, communiications, has this nation regressed so far into fear and hate that open discussion is no longer permitted.

    I hope President Obama smiles at and shakes the hand of many more world leaders, then perhaps we will be viewed as something other than a bully and spoiled child by the world community.

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

    To all the liberal sheep who call G W Bush and Cheney war mongers...

    What do you call the leaders of Iran, N. Korea, Venezuala etc???

    The ones who Obama is buddying up to??


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

    There are a couple of old cliches that go like this "keep your friends close and your enemies even closer" and "you can catch more bees with honey than vinegar". Being a diplomat takes a little humility and Obama has that going for himself. The republicans disrespect President Obama more than any world leader have done so far, so I don't want to hear anything from them. You can not advance the interest of the US by being nasty and a bully all the time. I don't know if the republicans realize it yet, but they really did not scare anyone with their bully tactics, we still got attacked on 9/11. Thank God POTUS understand that our approach MUST be different this time. It is hard for the Americans to listen to some things that are less desirable to the ego. Unfortunately, some of the things people say about us are true. We have to deal with that and learn how to be firm an stern without always compromising the integrity of the American people. It is time to grow-up so we can move this country in the right direction. I am proud of President Obama as a person and as a leader. The loudest one in the room is usually the one saying the least!

    April 20, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  9. Mike Syracuse, NY

    People have compared Obama/Chavez with Reagan/Russia or Nixon/China. They seem to forget that the smiling pictures in the two later cases were the result of months if not years of lower level meetings and negotiations and that at each conference, RESULTS were announced in better relations. In Obama's case, in his headlong rush to be liked, he's violating every time tested lesson learned about diplomacy. Instead og 'good faith' gestures like books, how about a real good faith gesture like releasing political prisoners? Obama isn't showing maturity, he's showing gross inexperience and naivety.

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

    Obama is "street smart" and wont be conned. After Bush ticked off just about every country on the planet, I think making/regaining friends is a good idea.

    April 20, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  11. Gina in Racine Wi

    Funny.....i never heard any analysts telling Bush to stop smirking.

    Get a grip. Obama smiles and is genuine.....and he knows what he is doing.

    April 20, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  12. Meh

    Oh, come ON. President Obama is friendly and smiles quite a bit. Get off the guy's back. We don't want to hear your "analysis".

    April 20, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  13. No Hillary = No Obama

    Chavez is a nut case first and a "world leader" second. What do you do with nut cases? You placate them. On this one, I say Obama was cornered. He should have asked Chavez to sign the book and then it could have gone on ebay to raise money for human rights groups in Venezeula.

    April 20, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  14. Chris

    OMG!!! Get over it!!!
    Obama smiled shook the man hand "So What"...
    I swear some people will find anything to pick a fuss about!!!
    I mean seriously the Republicans that are going around here picking out this and that on OBAMA need to get a life!!!
    WOW what a bunch of crap to be concerned with when folks are loosing their homes, jobs and the economy is down the tubes.....
    Dudes wake up!!! Smell the roses or what ever your nose need in the morning to get you going, but you need to focus on other things and not whether the President smile and shaking of another leader hand is showing a sign he is weak!!! PLEASE....is the black man always going to be under a microscope? MY GOD!!!

    April 20, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  15. JML

    WHAT on EARTH is wrong ..................President Obama did what he thought will help the SAD situation between Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the U.S.A. President Obama didn't go home with Chavez and take a shower with him folks, he simple spoke with him and shaked his hand.

    April 20, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  16. SDW

    This is so ridiculous! What would you have Mr. Obama do? Mr. Chavez call Bush the "devil" not Obama! Chavez didn't like Bush and he wasn't afraid to say so. He's not a hypocrite who smiles in your face and talks about you behind your back. Mr. Chavez said that with this hand I greeted Bush eight years ago. I want to be YOUR friend.

    Everything that President Obama has campaigned on, he is doing. This shouldn't be a surprise. He said that he would extend his hand if they unclenched their fists. It's called diplomacy. The GOP needs to grow the hell up!

    April 20, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  17. Saudi King

    Did Obama bow?

    April 20, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  18. Brian G, Sugar Land, TX

    Seems like Obama is doing very well ...
    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

    April 20, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  19. Jeff of Peoria

    Nothing wrong w/ being pleasant. I wouldn't invite him to the White House OR ANYWHERE in our country but he was a visitor to another territory and he is trying to send a different message.

    We can be pleasant and then BOMB him into nothing in less than an hour

    April 20, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  20. Allan G. Hanson

    Didn't we, thru the CIA, put Shavez in power? Then when he wouldn't be a pupet we rejected him. If we don't like him so much we should reject his oil and gas. we also should open up to Cuba. Reject China and not buy any of their products.
    Bush had worse friends who he embraced..

    April 20, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  21. Stu-Florida

    Hmmmm... saber rattling, angry rhetoric.. programmed missles or smiles and handshakes...
    Now there's a tough one... for the Republican Party. Just what is wrong with most of them. Are they so afraid of his successes that they may never see the inside of the White House again? Boo-hoo
    The big wheel has turned!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Perhaps this will also be good for the people of Venezuela. I believe it's already great for America!

    What is wrong with our new President starting with "fresh sheets"?
    I trust his judgment and his intellegence. That's why so many (like me)voted for him!

    April 20, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  22. Donovan

    What happend to keeping your enemy close. The GOP are still bitter for loosing the election. Obama is keeping Americans safe. Thats whats matter not some handshake.


    April 20, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  23. shoegazer

    Yeah,I guess it would have been more appropriate to have squinted his beady little eyes,sneer and mumble something incoherent.Oh wait,that was the former President........

    April 20, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  24. Michael in Houston, Texas

    Sounds lik a bunch of sour grapes from the GOP. I am convinced that everything Obama does is viewed as "socialist". You conservative nut cases need to get out of my country and find somewhere else to live since being an American is not good enough for you.

    April 20, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  25. Dal in CA

    An apple a day keeps the doctor away in the same vein a pat and a smile keeps the devil at an arms length.
    Obama knows what he is doing he is keeping the lines of communication open for a good dialog when required and will push back when required.

    April 20, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
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