Monday, July 6, 2009

Obama's Talk With Chavez: Something New?

The Possibility of
an Obama-Chavez

By Tom Hayden

July 2, 2009 - The media is full of speculation about President Obama's deft "deflection" against President Hugo Chavez' maneuvering and finger-pointing in the Honduras crisis. But another narrative is possible, of an undisclosed new diplomatic collaboration replacing the constant tensions and CIA foreknowledge of the brief 2002 coup against the Venezuelan leader.

It is too early to define a new era, but something profoundly new began developing between Obama and Chavez at the hemispheric conference in April in Trinidad.

According to eyewitness sources, under the apparently blind eye of the global media, the two leaders had lengthy conversations. The media covered the friendly photo of the initial handshake between the two leaders, then made much ado about an apparently-impertinent Chavez handing Obama a book in Spanish by Eduardo Galleano.

What has not been reported is that Obama, leaving his advisers behind, held lengthy private conversations with Chavez where only an interpreter was present.

It is not known what occurred in the secret talks. But sources in Caracas say that Chavez has become fascinated with Obama, seeking to understand the new US president and the forces around him, partly with advice from Brazil's president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

The Honduran crisis has been mounting for weeks. According to the New York Times', Chavez "had his playbook ready", planning to blame the CIA. But Obama, according to the Times' headlines, "deflected" the Venezuelan president by coming out strongly against the coup.

The real story is that a gradual rapprochement - not an alliance but a dialogue - is happening between the US and Venezuela, and it began in Trinidad, was pushed by Latin American leaders and welcomed by those like Obama, who prefer diplomacy over a return to US Cold War isolation.

It was no accident that Venezuela's ambassador to Washington, Bernardo Alvarez, returned to Washington in recent days after his expulsion several months ago.

The rapprochement, if it holds, would seem to be welcome news. The fact that is has occurred so silently is evidence that peace has its enemies.

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