On Sunday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez shared his thoughts on new US President Barack Obama’s policies and comments about the South American country’s government. It wasn’t pretty, although it fit appropriately with Chavez’s stance toward the US. The remarks are reminiscent of comments made in a January interview that compared President Obama to his predecessor. In the interview, Chavez said that Obama carried “the same stench” as President Bush, who, according to Chavez in 2006, left an aroma of “sulfur” at the podium of the United Nations General Assembly as he addressed the UN shortly after Bush. The January comment was in response to Obama’s accusations that Chavez must cease his support of the terrorist organization FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia). Chavez has denied lending any support to terrorists, although he denounced FARC’s classification by the Columbian government as a terrorist organization in January 2008.

Chavez’s comments Sunday came on his weekly address aired on Venezuelan state television. Chavez referred to the US President as a “poor ignoramus” who “should read and study a little to understand reality.” Tensions between the two countries have been high for years and were not helped by Chavez’s distrust and loathing of the Bush administration. With the new president taking office in January, Chavez had expressed a hope that the two sides could rebuild their relationship. The Venezuelan president even went as far as to commit to sending an ambassador back to Washington after removing the Venezuelan ambassador last year. He has since “put the decision back in the drawer.”

Resorting to name calling and other childish games is not the way to improve relations. We learned this in grade school as we used these tactics in a failed attempt to get the kid with the deli-made sub to trade for a soggy banana and generic brand applesauce at lunchtime. Maybe Chavez is the one who should go back to school.

Pulling an ambassador from the US and expelling the United States’ ambassador to Venezuela does little to help the matter either. Chavez has been hailed and damned by critics around the world and has met two attempts to overthrow his government since taking over as President of Venezuela in 1998. As President Obama has made good on promises to reexamine US diplomatic policies (revealing an interest in speaking with moderate elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan and sending a video message of goodwill to Iran), he has not made a similar move toward Chavez.

This may help to get things started, but the Venezuelan President has not made matters easy. The brash manner in which he addresses and responds to the US and other governments’ comments or criticisms has made diplomacy with Venezuela difficult, if not impossible. Enjoying close ties with Russia, Venezuela recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia, despite US opposition. The United States is guilty of weakening diplomatic ties with Chavez as well, recognizing Pedro Carmona as President during the 2002 coup to overthrow Chavez’s rule. Neither side would like to admit it publically, but it appears that as long as Hugo Chavez is at the helm in Venezuela, establishing and maintaining a good relationship with the South American country is unachievable.

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