WASHINGTON – Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez would go to the United States if U.S. counterpart Barack Obama invites him to visit the country, Venezuelan ambassador Bernardo Alvarez said upon returning to Washington after the normalizing of bilateral diplomatic relations.
“Of course he would come,” he said in a statement to reporters at the airport in the U.S. capital in which he hailed the end of the diplomatic crisis between the two nations.
The ambassador admitted that he has hopes of achieving a new relationship between the two countries because “the continent is changing and it would be petty not to understand that in the United States there has been a significant change.”
The return of the ambassadors, he said, is “a first step to normalizing relations, restoring political and diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level and reestablishing points of agreement in the bilateral relationship, such as in energy cooperation.”
Alvarez also pointed out “the historical importance” of Chávez and Obama eliminating the diplomatic representatives’ label of persona non grata.
Nonetheless, he recalled that there are issues pending between the two countries including the case of Luis Posada Carriles, a U.S. resident accused of masterminding the October 1976 attack on a Cubana de Aviación airliner in which 73 people died.
The normalizing of relations began Friday, when Venezuela and the United States exchanged diplomatic notes rescinding the ambassadors’ expulsion orders.
The diplomatic conflict blew up in September last year, when Chávez ordered U.S. representative Patrick Duddy out of the country in solidarity with a similar action taken by his Bolivian colleague Evo Morales.
The United States responded with the expulsion of Alvarez, declaring him persona non grata.
The latter’s return to Washington constitutes the latest chapter in negotiations between the two governments, begun in April during the 5th Summit of the Americas held in Trinidad and Tobago, when U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke with Chávez about the possibility of normalizing ties.
Alvarez said that “a gigantic avenue opened there for going ahead together to reestablish diplomatic normalcy” and that the quickest way to do it was to “bring back the ambassadors.”
According to State Department spokesman Ian Kelly, the return of the ambassadors “will help promote U.S. interests by improving bilateral communications” and his nation’s contact “with the Venezuelan people.”
Kelly said that Duddy will return to Caracas in the next few days.
Venezuela’s Chávez, a fiery left-wing populist first elected in 1998, was a thorn in the side of the Bush administration, which he denounced as “murderous” and “imperialist” and which he accused of backing a failed coup against him in April 2002.
The Bush government, while denying links to the putsch or designs on oil-rich Venezuela, said Chávez had totalitarian tendencies and that he represented a threat to stability in Latin America.