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Is Venezuela's Hugo Chavez sincere in endorsing Obama?

Hugo Chávez, Venezuela's Socialist president who faces an election Sunday, calls Obama a 'good guy' and says he would vote for him. It's not an endorsement Obama is likely to tout.

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In a TV interview during a campaign stop in Miami over the summer, Obama spoke of Iran’s strengthened ties with Venezuela and some other Latin American countries. “We’re always concerned about Iran engaging in destabilizing activity around the globe," he said. But “overall, my sense is that what Mr. Chávez has done over the last several years has not had a serious national security impact on us.”

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Obama added that his “main concern” about Venezuela is whether the people there have the democratic space to “have a voice in their affairs” and that they have “free and fair elections” – which, he added, “we don’t always see.”

In endorsing Obama, Chávez either doesn’t understand or simply doesn’t care that receiving a Socialist leader’s endorsement is not exactly doing the US president any favors. It may also be that Chávez genuinely sees a better chance for improved US-Venezuela relations under Obama. In his interview, he said, "I wish we could begin a new period of normal relations with the government of the United States." On the other hand, those may simply be the words of a practiced politician who faces an electorate that by and large does not favor a confrontational approch to the US.

But another Socialist president, France’s François Hollande, seems to grasp that the S-word is not one that most American politicians looking to win would choose to associate with. Asked by a French reporter last week at the United Nations in New York whether he supports Obama or Mr. Romney for president, Mr. Hollande declined to say, explaining, “You can imagine what difficulty it would cause either candidate to be supported by a French Socialist!”

With Romney making a play this week to erode Obama’s high marks with voters on foreign policy and national security, the Republican challenger may be tempted to jump on the Chávez endorsement as an example of what he means when he says Obama is not “resolute” enough with America’s adversaries.

But he may want to reconsider, lest he provide an opening for the Obama camp to remind voters how Romney looked more arrogant than resolute toward one of America’s closest allies this summer, when he questioned on British soil London’s preparations for what turned out to be smashing Summer Olympic Games.

British Prime Minister David Cameron is also too smart to publicly endorse a candidate for US president. But he gave a hint of what he thought of Romney and his critique when he took a swipe at Romney’s much-vaunted job running the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, sniffing, “Of course it’s easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere.”


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