While the media remembers him as someone who was at odds with the United States, I remember him as someone who was at odds not with the U.S., but with George W. Bush. Hugo Chavez simply disliked the Bush Foreign Policy Doctrine, and believed America under President Bush was the real dictator of the World.
Considering the Iraq War, and the completely basis claim of weapons of mass destruction, as well as leaving Latin American relations to conservative cold warriors like John Bolton who was hostile to leftist leaders like Chavez, it’s no wonder why President Chavez disliked President Bush.
President Chavez famously called Bush ‘The Devil,” in a United Nations speech in 2006, and in 2005, said of then Secretary Condoleeza Rice “She is sexually frustrated. I could invite her on a date to see what happens between us.”
But when President Obama was elected, and Hilary Clinton appointed Secretary of State, the pair correctly noted that eight years of an isolationist policy has not worked, so it was time to try moving closer to Chavez. Clinton said that Hugo was a “very sociable guy,” and was going to make friends elsewhere – like China and Russia. And that’s what he did.
President Obama successfully got President Chavez to exchange ambassadors – which worked for a little while or until Larry Palmer, the U.S. ambassadorial nominee for Venezuela expressed displeasure with the lack of freedom of expression in Chavez country. That got him booted.
But even with that, and other thorny issues, Chavez has never called President Obama anything close to the mean comments he reserved for Bush. Moreover, Chavez has said that President Obama’s a “good guy,” and that if he were American, he’d vote for him. Chavez said of Clinton that she has “a very spontaneous smile and I greeted her with the same effusiveness,” at the inauguration of Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s first female president.
So, the passing of Hugo Chavez comes at a time when it seemed as if, with Obama’s reelection, relations were continuing to move in the right direction. But now that Hugo’s passed on, just what future relations between America and Venezuela will be is up in the air, but it’s fair guess that it will be good, considering that the foundation of the relationship was much better under Obama than under Bush.