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New video shows less friendly encounter between Obama and Chavez

US Democratic president Barack Obama chats with Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez at the Summit of the Americas 4-17-09

Venezuelan television has broadcast new video of another conversation between President Obama and Venezuela's bombastic leader Hugo  Chavez.

Critics of the new U.S. administration have begun gaining some online ground this week suggesting that a naive Obama was being too chummy with dictators in his early foreign policy initiatives with Cuba and forays abroad.

The widely displayed photo above from last week of an apparently quite pleasant conversation between Obama and Chavez with huge smiles fueled such criticism. Obama himself has dismissed such talk, calling it merely a polite encounter with the leader of a country that owns Citgo and has 1/600th the military budget of the United States.

Now, thanks to Jake Tapper's blog entry over at ABC this afternoon, we've got fresh Venezuelan news videotape from the same Americas summit  through a door showing the two leaders conversing through a female interpreter.

No smiles in this exchange. In fact, Obama at first appears eager to walk away and is held back by Chavez. The American president then dominates the ongoing discussion and is seen gesturing with his right hand and pointing his finger several times at Chavez's chest.

No word yet from the White House on the contents of this little-known exchange. But it appears to shed a different light on the encounter. Watch the video below closely.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Alfonso Ocando / EPA

Comments () | Archives (9)

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Too late Obilibobil. You lost the propaganda war. No one will remember this (doctored?) clip. Wonder why it took two days for this to surface. The CIA must have dragged their feet in creating it for you after you released the interrogation documents.

Obama, its a cold cruel world out there. Unlike the 52% of US sheeple voters, no foreign leader cares about your rock star jazz. They are out to one up you and to take whatever advantage you give them and boy have you been doling it out. You neebob you need to read up on a little history and put some armor on. First off, you are the President of the US, you bow to no one and you don't shake the hands of murderers, let alone negotiate with or sit through their rantings.

I just saw the video, & it's not the tough showdown Andrew Malcolm is selling it as.

First, the two (democratically elected Presidents, which Malcolm forgets) laugh in a group setting.

Obama says goodbye, then turns (certainly not "eagerly" as Andrew Malcolm describes).

Chavez taps him to hold on for a second. He makes a hand gesture indicating he'd like to talk personally (finger & thumb touching together).

Obama agrees.

Both men ask the crowd surrounding them to disperse. Only Chavez's translator is present.

Now, the actual conversation...
Chavez proposes or asks something of Obama.
Obama responds by gesturing to himself then Chavez.

In Andrew Malcolm's world, Obama must be mad at Chavez since he points at Chavez's chest a number of times.

In the real world, Obama continually points to himself then Chavez. So maybe Obama is mad at himself as well?

The most telling part of the conversation is when Obama shuffles his hand symbolizing some sort of exchange.

My bet is that they were discussing a return of their respective diplomats. Because later on, Chavez would approach Hilary Clinton with the result of a restoration in diplomatic ties.

Obama people have died for the country that you are now leading - show some respect for this country!!!!!!!!!!

Obama's approach to make talk or dialogue with friends or foes as the first option to sort out conflicts and troubling issues, is in direct correspondence to his pronounced commitment during electioneering and more of a human,logical and rational line of action for a leader of 21st century world,termed as a global village,particualry of a Super Power(rather the only one). He has not said that whatever his predecessor,Bush,did was wrong but he is proving through his actions,it could be better.Talking with adversaries is not indicative of weakness but ref;ective of moral courage and intellectual superiority.Bravo Obama,the leader of 21st century ,you've proved your mettle

Gosh, those Venezuelans must LOVE being oppressed because they keep electing the same 'dictator' over and over again, by margins that Bush or Obama could only dream of. What's wrong with those Venezuelans? Don't they watch FOX news to find out what's happening to them in their country?

Look, if 'dictator' is going to remain a potent, useful word in the English language, then one must provide at least one example to justify it. Here is an illustration:

Which of the following leaders came to power in a contested election, condoned torture, relied on domestic spying, violated international law, and launched a pre-emptive invasion.

(a) Hugo Chavez
(b) Barack Obama
(c) George W. Bush

Can you spot the dictator?

Obama Derangement Syndrome is alive and well on this thread. Who left open the door to the mental ward?

This whole narrative of handshakes, hugs, and superficial personal relationships means nothing besides filler between commercials on FOX News and MSNBC.
Nations are guided solely by long-term economic and strategic interests, which certainly trump fleeting belligerent stances and the diplo niceties of statecraft.
Hugo Chavez provides Obama with a test: he can put his money where his mouth is and engage sovereign nations without demands, preconditions, and uneven horse-trading - or he can relapse into threats, the famous imperialist arrogance, militaristic huffing and puffing, double-standards.
Venezuela is a touchstone for many vectors of the US foreign policy as regards China, Russia, LatAm, hydrocarbons, nuclear energy, Monroe Doctrine, Iran, Palestine, drugs et al. Attempts at dishonest maneuvering will surely backfire with war as a possible result, but an honest attempt to find compromise and scale back interference in the forms of subversion and financial manipulation/sanctions/asset-freezing could be quite beneficial for Americans, North and South.
Conservatives and Liberals should swallow the hard truth, the emperor wears no clothes and 8 years of failed War on Terror have proved this. US power is not what it used to be - high-tech gadgetry, massive military, and wealth of Chinese consumer goods notwithstanding. This situation has dictated the necessity of a modest stance, or at the very least a poker-face prior to a possible risky gambit.

THat looked pretty chummy. Looked diplomatic. I was expeciting obama bruskly pulling away and sternly pointing at him based on the above description.
This was a misleading story.

The only person who really knows what the exchange was really about is the interpreter. The title is indeed misleading.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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