20 April 2009

Chavez as Oprah

Look at this picture. It is not a fake. That is the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, presenting a book to the president of the United States, Barack Obama, who is graciously accepting it. And yes, I am not making this up, Chavez is quoted as saying to Obama, "I want to be your friend." Hell may not have frozen over, but relations between the U.S. and its nemeses in Latin America appear to be thawing out. To quote the Venezuelan leader again, "President Obama is an intelligent man, different from the previous one." Yes, indeed, Mr. Chavez, very different indeed.

The book, "Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent" by Eduardo Galeano, has already surged to sixth place on Amazon's U.S. paperback sales chart. Three years ago Chavez praised a book by Noam Chomsky, "Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance," and it too shot up to the top of Amazon's bestseller list.

No word yet if Obama is reading his book.


  1. I don't think Chavez has much choice. When both oil prices and Venezuelan oil production were high, Chavez could play any role he wanted. Money buys a lot of freedom.

    But now Venezuelan oil revenue is dropping like a stone, and Chavez is in trouble. The loss of money means Chavez's options are narrowing in a hurry. He'd better treat his best customer with respect.

  2. I don't think Chavez is worried about treating " his best customer with respect" even during the worst of times America gobbled up as much oil as they could get and they will continue to gobble up as much oil as they can get. Chavez recognizes an opportunity to have better relations with the US and is taking an olive branch approach. I hope Obama reads the book and he probably will. The fact that Chavez has got Americans reading Galeano and of all things Chomsky!! is awesome. Go Hugo!

  3. I think Chavez was looking for an excuse to normalize relations with the U.S. The election gave him that excuse. His antagonism towards Bush was mostly manufactured anyway - a way churning up populist sentiment.

    Although there is a global market for crude oil, the U.S. is Chavez's preferred market. The transportation costs are low and the U.S. has money to pay them (unlike many South American countries). Yes, Chavez could sell to other countries, but he would not get as good of a price.

    Go Hugo? Human Rights Watch has a file on Venezuela a mile long.