Will the Obama-Chávez thaw last?
Watch for new US and Venezuelan ambassadors and cooperation on the drug war.
Presidents Barack Obama and Hugo Chávez unexpectedly rescued US-Venezuelan relations from the deep freezer over the weekend at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad.Skip to next paragraph
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The two high-profile leaders replaced barbed words with cordial greetings, and Chávez said he wanted to name a new ambassador to the US to replace the one who was expelled last year.
Now each side is waiting for the other to take the next step to put relations on a normal footing, a level not achieved since 2001, during the early days of the Bush administration, analysts said Monday.
Venezuelan officials want continued respect from the Obama administration and a muted response to Chávez's moves against his political opposition.
Unless the cordial contacts reflect a genuine change in the countries' attitudes, however, few analysts expect the warming to last, given US actions that Chávez has deemed hostile and Chávez's history of using the US as a political punching bag.
"Chávez's MO has always been to create conflict with an external power or entity, be it Washington, Colombia or ExxonMobil," said Patrick Esteruelas, who just returned to New York from Venezuela for the Eurasia Group, a risk-analysis firm. "He needs to create a smoke screen to distract people away from the government's own problems and mismanagement, no matter who sits in the White House."
It's in the interest of both leaders to maintain the flow of Venezuelan oil to the United States, however.
Washington and Chávez have had a turbulent history, punctuated by his accusation that the US was killing babies with bombing attacks in Afghanistan in 2001 and his charge that Bush administration officials gave at least tacit support to a 2002 coup that toppled him for three days.