Chavez will stay out of U.S. election

PEDRO REY/AFP/Getty Images If you were waiting to see who Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is supporting in the upcoming U.S. presidential election, it looks like you’re going to be disappointed. Chavez sat down for an informal interview last Thursday with a group of visiting American newspaper editors and refused to bite: Of the American presidential ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
595005_080519_chavez_811002102.jpg
595005_080519_chavez_811002102.jpg

PEDRO REY/AFP/Getty Images

If you were waiting to see who Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is supporting in the upcoming U.S. presidential election, it looks like you're going to be disappointed. Chavez sat down for an informal interview last Thursday with a group of visiting American newspaper editors and refused to bite:

Of the American presidential candidates, Chávez said, "It would be a lie to say I have no preference." But "I shouldn't say anything that would be used against someone."

PEDRO REY/AFP/Getty Images

If you were waiting to see who Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is supporting in the upcoming U.S. presidential election, it looks like you’re going to be disappointed. Chavez sat down for an informal interview last Thursday with a group of visiting American newspaper editors and refused to bite:

Of the American presidential candidates, Chávez said, “It would be a lie to say I have no preference.” But “I shouldn’t say anything that would be used against someone.”

The 20 editors spoke with Chavez for about 90 minutes on topics ranging from baseball (He’s a Yankees fan, ironically.) to his relationship with Fidel Castro. He also stressed that the bombastic anti-American rhetoric he has used in the past is directed at the U.S. government, not ordinary Americans, and certainly not his friends in Hollywood:

I beg for forgiveness if in my speech I’ve hurt any feelings back in the States. I ask for forgiveness. When I speak about the United States, I do not refer to the people, to the citizens. I refer to the elite that is governing the United States – and not even referring to all of the elite governing the United States. Because we have friends among the elite governing the US. The economic elite, we have friends. We have friends among the cultural elite of the United States . . . Danny Glover. Kevin Spacey came over here. Sean Penn. Those are my friends, close friends . . . And when they come over here, they say what they like and what they don’t like. And we still are friends. And that’s what we want. We want to be friends. And I hope that with the new government we can then open new space for exchange – and discuss.

Chavez isn’t getting too cozy though. He still worries about the U.S. invading to steal his country’s oil wealth and is looking into buying more weapons from Russia to guard against this threat. He was also pretty evasive when asked about whether he planned to leave power when his term runs out in 2013, saying, “I don’t think the Venezuelan people, at least part of the people, would allow me to get too far away from politics.”

With his arch-nemesis on the way out, Chavez may be hoping to boost his appeal to the American population. But given how integral the image of Chavez as a third-world underdog railing against North American neoliberalism is to his appeal and legitimacy in Venezuela and throughout Latin America, it seems unlikely that he would ever get to friendly with the U.S., no matter who’s sitting in the White House.

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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