Passport

Obama shakes hands with Chavez

Ladies and gentlemen, we have our photo op: There are no plans for Mr. Chávez and Mr. Obama to meet privately, but White House officials said before the meeting that the two would participate in at least one small group leaders’ meeting, and that Mr. Obama would not spurn any outreach by Mr. Chávez, who ...

Ladies and gentlemen, we have our photo op:

There are no plans for Mr. Chávez and Mr. Obama to meet privately, but White House officials said before the meeting that the two would participate in at least one small group leaders’ meeting, and that Mr. Obama would not spurn any outreach by Mr. Chávez, who frequently referred to Mr. Bush as “the devil.”

Indeed, Mr. Obama made the first move, officials said, striding across the room to introduce himself to Mr. Chávez as the leaders were lining up to parade into the opening ceremony. As he extended his hand, the Venezuelan government reported, Mr. Chávez told Mr. Obama: “I greeted Bush with this hand eight years ago. I want to be your friend.”

 

Backstory here.

… some spin here from White House advisor Jeffrey Davidow:

[T]here is a sizable population in Venezuela, probably the very,very vast majority of Venezuelans who have a more favorable attitude to President Obama than they have to him."

Asked if he was saying that President Obama is more popular in Venezuela than President Chavez, Davidow said, "yeah."

Davidow called Chavez’s rush to promote images and a description of his offer of friendship to President Obama "a little confusing."

President Obama, Davidow said, "smiled and shook hands with every head of state in the reception, and of course the picture of him smiling and shaking hands with Chavez gets the news coverage. All I’d say is a smile and a handshake doesn’t mean that we have a deeply different relationship with Venezuela today. Venezuela kicked out our ambassador a few months ago. The relationship is a strained one. It has to be repaired. I think it’s up to Venezuela to take some steps. I would not …read too much into the  fact that  the President, you know shook hands and was seen smiling because that’s what he did with 33 other presidents as well."

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