Venezuela President Hugo Chavez is considering naming an ambassador to the United States, signaling a shift in the historically tense relations between the two nations — one that the Obama administration welcomed.
“It is possible we will begin evaluating the designation of an ambassador in the United States,” Chavez said in a statement Saturday after the meeting of leaders and representatives from 34 countries at the the fifth Summit of the Americas. “We want to move in that direction.” A senior Obama administration official told CNN late Saturday that Chavez had approached Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to discuss returning ambassadors to posts in Caracas and Washington. “This is a positive development that will help advance U.S. interests,” the official said. “And, the State Department will now work to further this shared goal.” Earlier, another administration official told CNN, “We don’t know yet if Chavez is serious. … We’re not rushing into this.” The welcoming attitude from both sides contrasts with the mood during the Bush administration, during which Chavez expelled the U.S. ambassador to Venezuela in September. The United States responded by expelling Venezuela’s ambassador, heightening tensions between the two nations. Chavez — whose anti-U.S. rhetoric has included calling former President George W. Bush the devil — made the announcement Saturday after President Obama presented a different approach to the United States’ neighbors, offering “favorable prospects” for the future, a White House economic adviser said.
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“We take Obama at his word, with the one difference we have: We [Venezuelans] are socialists,” Chavez said. Chavez told CNN affiliate GloboVision that he has tapped Roy Chaderton, Venezuela’s ambassador to the Organization of American States, as his candidate for the post. “Now we have to wait for Washington to give the authorization so he can take office,” he said.