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Obama still lacks some listening skills
His stated intentions were good and his going to shake hands with Chávez was an extremely wise maneuver. Symbolically it immediately said to all the leaders present that he was looking for a new relationship with the rest of the Americas.
But returning to the U.S., he was immediately faced with a barrage of criticism. The most memorable photo of the Summit will be that of Obama and Chávez; and, if one has an insatiable hatred of Chávez that photo is unforgivable. Thus Obama has had to defend his actions and in general, I believe, has done reasonably well.
However, if he was really listening to what the others were saying at the meeting, there is one statement regarding Venezuela that he should never have made after returning to the U.S. He said that he was concerned about the interference of Venezuela in the affairs of neighboring countries. Such a statement only merits a roar of laughter. That the president of the United States, which has a long history of intervention, should accuse another country of the Americas of such an action is absolutely hilarious.
One of the great themes of the Summit was the request that the U.S. respect the sovereignty of the other nations. It is unfortunate that the book Chávez gave Obama, The Open Veins of Latin America, was in Spanish. If Obama could have read it on his return trip to the U.S., he would never have made such a statement.
Moreover, what was he referring to when he spoke of Venezuela’s interference in other countries? The free eye operations that Venezuela has provided for hundreds of thousands of persons from many countries of the Americas? Helping other countries in building roads, providing better housing, and improving electrical services? The opposition in Venezuela doesn’t think the government should help people in other countries. Does Obama agree with them?
Responding to President Obama’s remarks, a woman at a Caracas newsstand said to me, “He’s just a kid. Give him time to grow up.” Maybe he is and hopefully he will grow. More importantly, hopefully he will discover that he is in charge of setting the direction for the foreign policy of the U.S. and not his advisors and even less the press and members of the Republican Party.
Obama’s handshakes and attitude at the Summit were excellent. Hopefully he realizes that and won’t pay too much attention to his critics.
by Charles Hardy ©
Charles Hardy is author of Cowboy in Caracas: A North American’s Memoir of Venezuela’s Democratic Revolution, published by Curbstone Press. Other essays by Hardy can be found on his personal blog Cowboyincaracas.com. You may write him at email@example.com.