U.S. Hopes Chávez’s Passing Could Smooth Relations with Venezuela

Venezuela's Chávez had often campaigned on anti-U.S. rhetoric, and relations between the two countries have been strained almost since he took office 14 years ago

  • Share
  • Read Later
DAVID FERNANDEZ / EPA

A vehicle carrying the coffin of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is accompanied by thousands of mourners during a procession through Caracas on March 6, 2013

U.S. officials are cautiously optimistic that the death of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez could improve relations between the two countries, but they aren’t holding their breath.

“One of the things that happens over 14 years in a government like Venezuela is it really did revolve around one man. So while I’m hesitant to say that the change in an individual, or the passing of an individual, completely changes a relationship,” a State Department official told reporters Wednesday, “he played an outsized role in that government and therefore his absence can have outsized implications.”

That said, Venezuela is now facing elections, as mandated by its constitution. “And all of us know electoral campaigns are not times to break new ground on foreign policy,” the official said.

(PHOTOS: Rise of Chávez: The Late Venezuelan President’s Path to Power)

Not to mention that hours before Chávez’s death was announced, Venezuelan Vice President Nicolás Maduro, Chávez’s anointed successor, accused the U.S. of working to destabilize Venezuela and of causing Chávez’s illness in a rambling 90-minute press conference. Two U.S. State Department officials were expelled from Venezuela following the allegations. Chávez died Tuesday of cancer.

The U.S. reserves the right to reciprocity under the Geneva Convention to expel Venezuela’s diplomats, though no such move has been made, the official said.

The State Department made an attempt at mending U.S.-Venezuela relations after Chávez stepped away from office to focus on his health last year. Chávez had often campaigned on anti-U.S. rhetoric, and relations between the two countries have been strained almost since he took office 14 years ago. A senior State Department official spoke with Maduro by phone in November and a couple of follow-up meetings were held. “To be honest, we didn’t get much of a response,” the official said. “We really hadn’t gotten very far and were not sure whether the government of Venezuela wanted to go down that road.”

(MORE: After Chávez’s Death, Venezuelans Mourn and Look to an Uncertain Future)

The official said that State will wait until after the elections to reach out again, though the White House does plan to send an official delegation to the funeral.

“The [coming presidential] campaign itself may raise issues, may be a difficult campaign for many,” the official said. “We will probably continue to hear many difficult things about the U.S. that will not improve this relationship. It’s very hard for us to tell right now if the current government or the next government will either continue or stop the momentum to a better relationship.”

PHOTOS: Venezuelans Mourn the Death of Hugo Chávez

61 comments
HassanRaza
HassanRaza

That's sad! Someone is passed away and US worries about its relation; am sure they are happy with him passing away.

senwogbo
senwogbo

@TIME @TIMEPolitics Politics What good is any relations with the US if it means theft of resources,poverty and deprivation as before Chavez.

MShamsaldeen
MShamsaldeen

@TIME depends on his successor I think not, his successor to succeed needs to follow Chavezs political philosophy to gain approval.

reaccionve
reaccionve

%s %s %s y el tambien a ellos no le conmueve la partida de Chavez

lastpat1970
lastpat1970

@TIME By 'smooth', do you mean they will allow the US to walk all over them? I hope not.

Madara04
Madara04

His passing doesn't change anything. He was raised and elected in the hatred of the U.S. treatment of Latin America. Considering the U.S. spent tens of millions to get rid of Correra in Ecuador and Chavez in Venezuela election and they still won their elections! Latin America might not share his extreme views but they share his idea of a different path from the U.S. considering the U.S. bullies and dictates to Latin America (they give and never get anything back from the U.S.). In addition, they view as the U.S. as a materialistic and individual based society as corrupt and on the verge of collapsing (seeing the vast wealth gap and the treatment of their less fortunate).

C0MM3NT
C0MM3NT

@TIME No. If anything the US will use this opportunity to try take their oil.

msshuaibu
msshuaibu

@TIMEPolitics @JNSmall those dreaming are about to switch over to a nightmare. Kim never mentioned preemptive strike now the son does.

ColleBernie
ColleBernie

@TIMEPolitics @JNSmall yeah, just read articles following Chavez's passing. Had no idea he was that anti-US!

atheista
atheista

@the_nutbox hope lang naman daw. Hehe

ChrisRoKs
ChrisRoKs

@TIME @TIMEPolitics Venezuelais weak now is the time to attack

pointer_penny
pointer_penny

@TIME @TIMEPolitics will someone please cover H R block abusing customers after mistakes being made by H R block on the education tax credit

JohnForsthoffer
JohnForsthoffer

The U.S. is already buying petro from Venezuela, what else do they want? Why the big concern over having a smooth relationship with Venezuela? The U.S. needs another country they can destroy for their own  needs?

sacredh
sacredh

"So while I’m hesitant to say that the change in an individual, or the passing of an individual, completely changes a relationship,” a State Department official told reporters Wednesday, “he played an outsized role in that government and therefore his absence can have outsized implications.”

Did having Obama as President rather than Bush make a difference in world opinion and relationships internationally? We need look no further than our own backyard.

namro
namro

The main issue that soured relations between Venezuela and the US (similar to the Cuba issue) is the support of the corporatocracy and wealthy interests by the US government.  This support includes an active propaganda campaign about "polarization" that is exaggerated and CIA attempts to influence democratic elections to replace Chavez.  The US just can't accept the choices other people make about  their own country, when those choices are not in-line with US ambitions.  Chavez reduced poverty, increased literacy, improved health care, and improved the lives of the (formerly exploited) majority of Venezuela's citizens.  As the US devolves toward feudal capitalism, it has less tolerance for other countries trying a different approach with stronger social values.

MaryamzHz
MaryamzHz

@HassanRaza I will not be sad when Ahmedinejad passes away, he has hurt people I love. Chavez also hurt many people, some were not sad to see him go.  I am sure you would feel the same about people who have hurt your family also.US wants good relations with its neighbors, whats wrong with saying so? Chavez started a coup against the gov there and took it over, kind of like what happened in Iran, except for many Iranians the outcome was bad result because of the oppression they face now, worse than before. Many feel the same way about Chavez. Depends on your circumstances with someone. Being Iranian, you are either pro regime or with the 80% that would like to see regime go. Thats your opinion. No one said US is happy with him passing, they just hope that they can have a good relationship with their Venezuelan neighbors.Americans enjoy going to parts of South America as tourists, sometimes to live.Many South Americans are in US. I want to have good relations with my neighbors too, is it your concern?

MaryamzHz
MaryamzHz

@senwogbo@TIME@TIMEPoliticsThey arent taking the resources in Afghanistan, China is working them there, as well as in Iraq....US companies and other countries, including China, have worked in countries because they have the equipment and modern ways to do extract, but that doesnt mean they steal the oil. The government they work for gets revenues.But there is more corruption and crime than ever before. He allowed criminals to infiltrate the people.  Smart men know to help the poor, he learned well from Ahmedinejad, who would go to the poor villages and give food etc to the people himself as a campaign rally. In fact, when he ran for office, those are the same people he hauled in by busses to shout for him, because many educated Tehranians were reformists and not voting for him. If you cant get the majority vote in the bigger cities where many of the people are educated, you work the villages and reach to people with hand outs. That doesnt mean they werent sincere to a degree. but it benefited them as well, especially around election time.People have invested more in South America, thats why things are improving there.They have increased their trades.Some scholars of Latin America’s economic history of ups and downs say the robust recovery may be too good to last, pointing to volatile politics in some places, excessive reliance on commodity exports and the risks of sharply increasing trade with China.US isnt out for resources, Americans truly care about their neighbors, they enjoy the people, and many American churches and other people give their time to build homes and help the poor in many regions of South America.Americans give money to help poor countries. Lets be positive for a change and be good neighbors. The past is behind us, I am looking forward to the improvement of South America, for its people but for Americans as well. I know Brazilians,Ecuadorians, Columbians,Chileans, Bolivians of the South, Nicaraguans,Hondurans, El Salvadorians from Central,Mexicans, Caribbean Puerto Ricans,  and more, all of whom live in US, and we enjoy their culture, food  theyve brought with them. Its all about people, we need to reach out to each other. Governments put aside. We all will change our governments, thats a given, when they havent served us well. But as people, we must persevere for each other my friend.

JedClampett1
JedClampett1

@senwogbo @TIME @TIMEPolitics -you could feel the greed in the comments of the American government and business people who wasted no time stepping on the necks of the Venezuelan peoples memory of Chavez.

He sure spoke for alot of his countrymen-especially those of his poorer countrymen and their families.

MaryamzHz
MaryamzHz

@C0MM3NT @TIME US is trying to get away from oil and gets most of their oil from Mexico and Canada and their own resources. Theyve no problem with Venezuelan people, Chavez may have helped in some ways but it mostly came from increased trades. But in his time corruption and crime became worse. He turned a blind eye to  alot of it. 

MaryamzHz
MaryamzHz

@NicaraguanMuslm @TIME YES, China! Theyre already are working the resources in Afghanistan, Africa, Iraq etc...

JeffreyGeezGlavick
JeffreyGeezGlavick

No way will they be going back home, there not welcome, the Chavistas will be in control forever, it's done.

JNSmall
JNSmall moderator

@WilsonVega Yes, in Latin America. The other editions -- including the domestic US one -- has Sheryl Sandberg on the cover.

JNS

MaryamzHz
MaryamzHz

@ColleBernie Not anti US people

Doubtom
Doubtom

@ColleBernie Why not read further and find out why he was so anti-US?  Or do you think he's was born that way?  Then catch up on your reading about all the other nations in the Southern Hemisphere and their relations with the corporate US.  

MaryamzHz
MaryamzHz

@ChrisRoKs Thats not going to happen...

MaryamzHz
MaryamzHz

@JohnForsthoffer US buys most of its oil from Canada and Mexico, as well as from their own resources. Now they are trying to get away from oil and have cut back alot already. They were in Afghanistan after they were attacked, wouldnt you do the same if you had a 9-11 and a country was hiding him? China and India are working the resources in Afghanistan not US. China and Russia and France are working most of the oil resources in Iraq.US is not after resources or to occupy anyone.

MaryamzHz
MaryamzHz

@namro Is that why so many Venezuelans are in US? Many left to escape Chavez. Crime and corruption are far worse than before in Venzuela. Trade has help heal all of South and Central America. US is different everywhere you go, some people have very strong social values, in fact a good majority do. Are you one of those people judging an entire country by a few ? Or by their government? Americans are not your enemy. Chavez staged his own coup, I guess thats okay though.

Doubtom
Doubtom

@MaryamzHz @TIME What right do you have to speak of corruption and crime in another country?  Read some of your own history.  

Doubtom
Doubtom

@MaryamzHz @JohnForsthoffer  To hear you tell it the US has never exploited any nation in the world, we're lilly-white and deserve the world's unconditional love.  Try explaining the attempts on Chavez' life, as well as on a few other elected leaders in the Southern Hemisphere alone.  

Doubtom
Doubtom

@MaryamzHz @namro It's likely that the same grade of people left Venezuela after Chavez as left Cuba after Castro, in other words the well-to-do, who felt threatened by a man of the people  so they crawled away like the cowards who populate a large part of Florida and try to alter life in Cuba from a safe distance because, well, because they're essentially cowards.  

You're right Americans are not Venezuela's enemies--American Corporations backed by the CIA definitely ARE!

namro
namro

@MaryamzHz @namro   Many of those Venezuelans in the US are former henchmen of the prior corrupt government who had to flee because they were afraid of the revenge that they might face from their former victims (similarly to many Cuban ex-pats who left after Batista's government fell in Cuba).  Many Americans love to demonize those who reject American colonialism and exploitation by the US CIA and the US corporatocracy.  I see that despite propaganda from those sources, the facts show that Chavez cut poverty rates in half, the inflation rate is lower than it was under the previous government, and education and health care have improved substantially for all Venezuelans.  Chavez did not hate the US, just Bush and Cheney and what they stood for - and they were evil in most respects, especially Cheney who also managed to rob his own country through Haliburton.  Bush was just mentally simple and easily manipulated by Cheney, Rumsfeld, Pearl, and Wolfowitz.

MaryamzHz
MaryamzHz

@Doubtom @MaryamzHz @TIME I am not talking about my country (which is not America anyway). I am talking about the article, about Venezuela, whats your problem?The guy I replied to said they are trying to take the oil, do you read my response to him? I think you dont interpret English well.I am saying he decreased poverty rates with increased trades (some to US), and increased oil exportation(10% or more), which all contributed to the economy. I am saying many people left the country due to Chavez personality, and the fact that crime and corruption is worse since he took office and they feel he isnt doing anything about it. People also have said they are punished for opposing him, accusing him of human rights violations. I am saying there are good and bad things in every government, but that crime and corruption will stifle an economy in the long run. Youre too sensitive kiddo. Not all Venezuelans like Chavez, as other people in other countries obviously are not 100% for their President either, so? All countries have crime. I am talking about the article and the things I hear from friends who are in Venezuela. There is always more than your opinion. You act like a child.

MaryamzHz
MaryamzHz

@Doubtom @MaryamzHz @JohnForsthoffer No country is lily white, even yours. I'm not American, but also not abig fan of Chavez due to human rights violations and he was friendly to Ahmedinejad who severely oppresses his people and has them killed for opposing him, much like some say Chavez or people with Chavez has done.I'm for the people, not governments.

MaryamzHz
MaryamzHz

@Doubtom @MaryamzHz @namro Read my post above, very few of those were political asylum seekers(in comparison to those seeking jobs and education), but were those who didnt care for the policies  of Chavez or were concerned about where he was taking their country because of the way he approached matters.

MaryamzHz
MaryamzHz

@namro @MaryamzHz As of 2010 there were 225,000 Venezuelans in USA so I am sure the numbers are higher yet. Latinos in America will one day be the majority.

MaryamzHz
MaryamzHz

@namro@MaryamzHz And many of those Venezuelans     would be insulted to hear you say that because this is not true for the majority of them.Many Venzuelans  settled in the United States with hopes of receiving a better education, only to remain  there following graduation. They are frequently joined by relatives. However, since the early 1980s, the reasons for Venezuelan emigration have changed to include hopes of earning a higher salary and due to the economic fluctuations in Venezuela which also promoted an important migration of Venezuelan professionals to the US. In other instances  especially in recent years, more Venezuelans opposing the economic and political policies of president Hugo Chavez' are migrating to the U.S. (mostly to Florida, but New York City and Houston are other destinations). That doesnt mean they were at odds physically with him, they simply didnt like his ways.Some of them white, black and Indian.In 2006 the population of Venezuelans in US was 177,866 Many people said they left because of fear..The principle reason is fear of change of daily life, the loss of private property, loss of independence from the government, fear of the loss of constitutional rights and individual liberties.Thats occurring in many countries.They even have a medical center for low income Venezuelans in their community, so its not like all of those who left are so rich. There were 4,500 political asylums for them by 2010.Thats not a lot compared to the full population of them many had thugs threatening them with weapons, accusing them falsely of opposing the government. They were not allowed to oppose the government.Many have said that increasing concerns that Chavez is using the judicial system to bring politically motivated charges in order to "silence and banish potential government opponents."Americans do not care what government the Venezuelans choose as long as they dont hurt Americans.Most of them were not a fan of Cheney themselves.Americans are happy that economic conditions will improve for South Americans. many Americans live there or are tourists there and have a love for the people, their neighbors. There are good and bad in every government.