Hugo Wants Press Not Peace

President Obama and Hugo Chavez, the photo hungry egomaniacal former Lieutenant Colonel and current President of Venezuela (for life it seems) met twice at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad.  According to the Newsweek Blog The Gaggle, President Obama introduced himself to Chavez and reportedly said “¿Como estas?” Later as a meeting of the Union of South American nations was about to begin, Chavez presented President Obama a book highly critical of the history of  U.S. and European foreign policy and colonialism in the region in a obvious ploy for press attention.  Obama later said jokingly that he thought the book was one that Chavez had written himself and that he should have given him his own book in return.  The history book entitled Las Venas Abiertas de América Latina, or the Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent by Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano has been translated into English.  If Chavez had really intended Obama to read the book, he would have presented the translated version.  Obama neither reads nor speaks Spanish.  What is clear is that President Chavez was simply grandstanding.  The book itself does not bother me.  In fact, it is probably a good read and contains a Latin American perspective on the history of colonial domination that American policy makers and diplomats should understand.   It is a book that I would like to read.

If I could present a book to Obama, it would be Howard Zinn‘s classic work,  A People’s History of the United States.

An interesting side note:  The host country of the Summit is Trinidad and Tobago, the birthplace of Nobel Prize winning author V.S. Naipaul who writes of the damaging effects of colonial domination on the colonized.

In retrospect, I think Obama should not have accepted the book because it was clearly intended to embarrass him and the U.S.  Back in the early stages of the presidential debates, then Senator Hillary Clinton said that she did not want to be used as propaganda by enemy leaders and would not just sit down with Hugo Chavez or the Iranian President without some preconditions.   Maybe the preconditions for President Obama’s attendance at the Summit should have been “no gifts”.

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