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Venezuela hopes to restore relations with the U.S. to level reached during the Clinton Administration

“Let us hope that we can restore relations to the same level, at least, that we had during the Clinton Administration,” said Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in referring to his expectations with respect to the new U.S. administration, led by President Barack Obama, who has also said he hopes for a new perspective towards Latin America.

During an exclusive interview with Patricia Janiot on CNN en Español, President Chávez stated: “I spoke with Clinton on various occasions, with his Secretary of State, I even spoke by phone with him.  Let us hope we can begin a new period of respect and constructive relations.”

President Chávez expressed his optimism that this may be possible.  Nevertheless, he was emphatic in saying that the scenario “would depend on the United States, the behavior of the President, of his Secretary of State and his Administration.”

 “We will not accept disrespect from anyone.  We want respect and dignity, not just for ourselves, but for all the countries of Latin America.  Let us hope Obama has a different perspective for Latin America,” he affirmed.

Asked about recently announced plans by the Obama Administration to develop alternative energy projects and end its dependence on oil, President Chávez preferred to look at the whole world in replying that “increased consumption of oil is inevitable.”

He said it would be hard for the United States to reduce its dependence, both for the oil they produce as well as imported oil.  “It seems to me that someone may be deceiving President Obama with regards to energy,” President Chávez indicated.

More over, said Chávez, everyone should reach an accord to respect one another’s sovereignty.  He also noted that “Venezuela has seven refineries as well as 12 thousand gas stations in the United States, while we employ thousands of U.S. workers and help hundreds of thousands of families through our discounted heating oil program.”

The Venezuelan President emphasized the positive aspects of developing alternative energy.  “I think it is phenomenal that we encourage alternative energy projects and sources,” he said before advocating that his government and President Obama’s should reach an accord to promote wind, solar and tidal energy.

“I think all of that is marvelous, but it would be hard in the short run for the United States to end its dependence on oil, which it needs like air, like oxygen,” affirmed Chávez.

Regarding a possible meeting between himself and Barack Obama in the Americas Summit, scheduled for next April, President Chávez was reserved in his response, saying: “we will wait and see...discretion is the better part of valor.  When I met with former President Bush in the Americas Summit in Canada, remember that we shook hands and spoke for awhile.”  He also reiterated that he is willing to speak with the new President of the United States.

With respect to domestic policies, President Chávez was asked about the proposed amendment and said that his political intuition leads him to believe the Yes will win. “That is also what the polls say,” he added.

The President denied that his government sanctioned businesses which opened on Monday, despite it being decreed a national holiday in recognition of the tenth anniversary of the Bolivarian Revolution.

Prensa Presidencial, Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Press Office / February 3, 2009

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