Chavez to Obama: 'I Want to Be Your Friend'

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 17, 2009 8:40 PM CDT
President Obama shakes hands with Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez during the 5th Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Friday April 17, 2009.    (AP Photo/Alfonso Ocando, Miraflores Press Office)
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(Newser) – President Obama smiled and shook hands with Hugo Chavez today, only a month after the anti-American Venezuelan leader called Obama "ignorant," the Times of London reports. "I want to be your friend," said Chavez today. The White House had said Obama would not meet personally with Chavez at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad, but was open to a spontaneous conversation.

Chavez recently criticized the US despite Obama's attempts to thaw relations with Cuba, a key issue at the summit. "That's the great guilty one, the great Satan," said Chavez,
who vowed to veto the summit's draft declaration over Washington policy toward Cuba. But Obama is seeking to repair long-damaged relations with the region. He wants "to evaluate what others have to say as opposed to us going in with an agenda," a US official said.