CARACAS – Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez received in Caracas U.S. congressman William Delahunt, who predicted an improvement in bilateral relations during the government of President Barack Obama.
This is the first official visit by any high-level U.S. politician to the country since Obama was elected president, the state ABN news agency said on Friday in reporting the “private conversation” that Chávez and Delahunt had the previous evening.
Last September, Chávez expelled the U.S. ambassador to Caracas and the United States did likewise with the Venezuelan representative in Washington during the waning days of the George W. Bush presidency.
Chávez and Obama will be together for the first time at the continental summit to be held next month in Trinidad, although no announcement has been made of a possible meeting of the two.
Under the headline “Chávez meeting with U.S. congressman opens new possibilities for relations between the two countries,” ABN wrote that the meeting was “very positive and constructive.”
Rep. Delahunt, a Democrat from Massachusetts, “said he felt better about the future of bilateral relations” and “underscored the need for all those disagreeable matters of the past to be left behind and said they should teach us a lesson.”
At the meeting, “which lasted about 2 1/2 hours, different topics of mutual interest for the two countries were discussed, including subjects of international interest,” the Venezuelan state news agency said.
It also said that the visitor had commented that his trip showed “the willingness not only of President Chávez but also of the United States president to maintain relations based on dialogue.”
“He said that Obama believes it is important ‘to improve U.S. relations not only with Venezuela but with all the nations of the world,’” ABN said.
Delahunt´s Massachusetts constituency receives fuel oil aid from Chavez via Venezuela´s Citgo donations to Citizen Energy, headed by Joe Kennedy. Delahunt is also the prime sponsor of a bill to ease restrictions on travel with Cuba.
Delahunt has on several occasions in past years visited Chávez, who in his most recent mention of Obama three days ago that he looked forward to hearing him speak in Trinidad.
“Let’s see what he comes with," said Chavez. "There they will be defining things like the embargo on Cuba,” he said, and anticipated that at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad “the cannons will sound,” because at that meeting he will take charge of raising “the problem of the exclusion of Cuba.”
“I’m going to a summit where Latin America and the United States and Canada are present but Cuba is not. We’ll have to discuss that as gentlemen and ladies. The subject is unavoidable,” Chávez said.
The embargo on Cuba, the Venezuelan head of state said, “is an aggression against the people of Latin America and the Caribbean.”
According to the president, the embargo applies the law of extraterritoriality, which is an implied threat because Venezuela trades with Cuba and that, according to the ruling, “is prohibited.”
Chávez also said Saturday in an interview on the Qatari television network Al Jazeera that Barack Obama is ignorant of Latin American realities.
Chávez said he came to that conclusion after sending a message to Obama through Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva when the latter visited Washington recently.
“Lula was going to meet with Obama and I accepted that he mediate between us and sent him a message, in which I wrote all the statements against Venezuela made by officials of the Obama administration, including those by Mrs. (U.S. Secretary of State Hillary) Clinton,” Chávez said.
The Venezuelan president, without giving further details of that message, said that “unfortunately, Lula came away unsatisfied with Obama’s reply.”
“From what I read between the lines and from the words (of the response), I conclude that Obama suffers from something that can be overcome: ignorance about what is really going on here (in Latin America),” Chávez said, adding that such ignorance is due to Obama “still listening to what he is told by some Pentagon and White House advisors that served in the previous administration.”
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama was at best an "ignoramus" for saying the socialist leader exported terrorism and obstructed progress in Latin America.
"He goes and accuses me of exporting terrorism: the least I can say is that he's a poor ignoramus; he should read and study a little to understand reality," said Chavez.
Chavez said Obama's comments had made him change his mind about sending a new ambassador to Washington, after he withdrew the previous envoy in a dispute last year with the Bush administration in which he also expelled the U.S. ambassador to Venezuela.
"When I saw Obama saying what he said, I put the decision back in the drawer; let's wait and see," Chavez said on his weekly television show, adding he had wanted to send a new ambassador to improve relations with the United States after the departure of George W. Bush as president.
Chávez, whose oil-rich nation is a key supplier of crude to the United States, has repeatedly accused Washington of complicity with an abortive 2002 coup against him and views the millions of dollars Venezuelan opposition groups receive from U.S. public entities as interference.
By the same token, U.S. officials have consistently denounced Chávez as an autocrat who undermines “stability” in Latin America.