The New York Times
November 07, 2008
According to Venezuela’s government, the election of Barack Obama as president is the latest step in a revolutionary process that began in … Caracas.
“This historic election of an African American to lead the most powerful country in the world is a sign that the era of change which has taken root in South America could be reaching the doorstep of the United States,” Venezuela’s foreign ministry said in a statement released on Wednesday.
Indeed, just weeks after expelling Patrick Duddy, the American ambassador to Venezuela, in a speech using expletives to refer to Americans, President Hugo Chávez is asserting that he is prepared to improve relations with the United States.
“From now on, I am sending signals to the black man,” Mr. Chávez said in televised comments earlier this week.
The shift by Mr. Chávez has unleashed a torrent of debate in Caracas. The national assembly, which is controlled by supporters of Venezuela’s president, conveyed its congratulations to Mr. Obama on his victory in a statement also calling on him to end the American embargo on trade with Cuba and withdraw American troops from Afghanistan.
Prominent critics of Mr. Chávez, including Diego Arria, a former Venezuelan ambassador to the United Nations, contend the desire for change voiced by Mr. Chávez is rooted in fears over the impact plunging oil prices may have on Venezuela’s economy.
But even among some of Mr. Chávez’s supporters, the move toward a thaw apparently has not sunk in. General Jesús González, one of Venezuela’s top military commanders, said this week that the country was going ahead with arms purchases from Russia, China and Belarus. The reason, said General González, was simple: “I do not doubt that the Americans want to come here in search of oil. We must be prepared. If you want peace, get ready for war.”