From Chavez, Literary Criticism; Gives Obama Book Assailing U.S., but Vows Better Relations

Article excerpt

Byline: Stephen Dinan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Continuing a back-and-forth series of actions between the U.S. and leftist Latin American regimes, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez sought out President Obama at a joint meeting Saturday morning to give him a book attacking capitalism and American intervention in the Western Hemisphere.

He later took a more conciliatory posture, announcing he is restoring Venezuela's ambassador in Washington and hoping for a new era in relations.

Mr. Chavez said at the Summit of the Americas that he will propose Roy Chaderton, his current ambassador to the Organization of American States, as Venezuela's new representative in a move toward improving strained ties with Washington, the Associated Press reported.

Mr. Chavez expelled the U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, Patrick Duddy, in September. Washington reciprocated by kicking out Venezuela's ambassador.

The book Mr. Chavez gave Mr. Obama, Las Venas Abiertas de America Latina, or The Open Veins of Latin America, by Eduardo Galeano, describes centuries of invasions and other attempts to influence Latin American affairs by outside powers, including the U.S.

Mr. Chavez handed the book to Mr. Obama after the U.S. president spoke at a meeting of leaders from the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), which was taking place on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad.

I thought it was one of Chavez's books, Mr. Obama told reporters afterward. I was going to give him one of mine.

A senior administration official later said the exchange appeared to be a publicity ploy by Mr. Chavez.

Anybody who's been at international conferences with Chavez knows that if there's a camera around, he's going to find a way to get in it, said the official, who attended Mr. Obama's meetings and the White House had asked to brief reporters on the condition of anonymity.

Mr. Chavez drew an unruly crowd of reporters wherever he went, and the pool of reporters following Mr. Obama reported fights breaking out among the press following Mr. Chavez.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that since the book was in Spanish, he doubted Mr. Obama would be reading it.

The book proffer comes a day after Mr. Obama sought out and shook hands with Mr. Chavez and his close ally, Bolivian President Evo Morales, at the opening ceremonies of the summit. It also follows a weeklong engagement with Cuba, which saw Mr. Obama lift some of the strictest areas of the U.S. trade and travel embargo on that nation, and which saw Cuban President Raul Castro indicate he would now be open to talking with the U.S. on expanding political freedoms.

But at the UNASUR meeting Saturday, South American leaders called for Mr. Obama to lift the embargo entirely, and several of them, including Mr. …