As Republican challenger Mitt Romney pounced on President Obama for saying that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez did not pose a threat to U.S. national security, Chavez himself came to Obama’s defense and ridiculed the “far right.”
Romney, clearly playing to his conservative base, said Obama’s comments were “stunning and shocking” and demonstrated weakness in the president’s foreign policy. Of course this has been a game Republicans have played for years, invoking the word “weak” every time a Democrat appears to be in any way conciliatory toward other world leaders—particularly leaders who happen to be from black or brown countries.
But Chavez, who announced that he was miraculously free of cancer and ready to run for re-election in Venezuela, was dismissive of Romney and his comments.
“The Venezuela of today is no threat to anyone,” he said in an interview with a local Venezuelan television station. “It has all been a hoax by the imperialists and global far right: that uranium is being enriched in Venezuela, that we’re setting up missiles here, that we’re supporting terrorism.”
Whenever there were efforts to improve relations between Washington and Caracas, Chavez said, they were criticized by powerful “snipers” who issued threats in the U.S. media.
Obama and Chavez have had a complicated relationship over the last few years, made even more complicated by the idiosyncrasies of the Venezuelan leader. Chavez is chummy with Iran and Cuba and their leaders, which is not going to endear him to anyone in Washington, including President Obama. But Obama and Chavez actually shook hands at a summit early in Obama’s administration and Chavez behaved as if he wanted to smooth his relations with an Obama-led U.S. But the harmony didn’t last long.
Within months, Chavez said Obama was disillusioning the world by following George W. Bush’s foreign policies, and he began throwing rhetorical missiles at the U.S. once again.
On Friday, Chavez said Obama’s troubles began with that handshake. “They fell on him: saying he’s a socialist, a communist. … The personal war against Obama started, including looking for a way to get him out of office by any means.”