What is Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton doing shaking hands with Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez? The two exchanged pleasantries in Brazil during the inauguration of its new President Dilma Rousseff.
The Obama Administration did the right thing a few days ago in revoking the visa of Venezuela’s Ambassador to the U.S. after Chavez would not recognize President Obama’s appointment of Larry Palmer as U.S. Permanent Representative in Caracas. Now if Chavez had reversed his decision and recognized Palmer one could argue that a handshake would be in order. But Hillary’s handshake with Hugo sends the message that the Obama Administration isn’t really all that angry with Chavez. I guess the Obama Administration reserves that kind of anger for the likes of Benjamin Netanyahu.
Yet you would have thought the Obama Administration would have learned its lesson. Despite President Obama referring to Chavez as his “mi amigo” nearly two years ago, Venezuela’s mercurial leader has been as contemptuous of Obama as he was of President Bush. Meanwhile, Chavez has been getting very cozy with Iran. Last October, Chavez and Ahmadinejad pledged to unite and create a “new world order.”
Needless to say, Hillary’s handshake with Hugo does not inspire confidence and gets 2011 off to an inauspicious start.