U.S. President Barack Obama (2nd L) talks with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez prior to the opening ceremony of the Fifth Summit of Americas in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, April 17, 2009.[Xinhua/Bolivarian News Agency]
U.S. President Barack Obama and his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez exchanged greetings with smile outside the venue of the Fifth Summit of the Americas Friday.
Pictures and TV footage issued by the summit's organizing committee showed that Obama and Chavez shook hands and exchanged greetings with very relaxed smile minutes before the opening ceremony of the summit on Friday evening.
Reports said that Obama offered greetings in Spanish, while the Venezuelan president replied in English.
Obama also reportedly offered his greetings to other leaders participating in the summit, the first time for Obama since taking office in January to show his administration's policy change on Latin America from that of his predecessor George W. Bush.
A possible Obama-Chavez meeting has been one of the watching points at the summit, although White House spokesman Robert Gibbs on Thursday said that Obama had no plan to meet Chavez at the three-day summit in Trinidad and Tobago.
The spokesman said Obama might not walk away if Chavez tried to approach for a conversation. "Every time I've pulled the president aside for a conversation, we've had that conversation, so I assume he would do the same."
Chavez has said he hopes to "reset" the relationship with the United States at the Americas summit.
The U.S.-Venezuela relationship has been in tensions for near 10 years since Chavez was elected to his first presidential term in 1999. Washington has accused Chavez of anti-U.S. incitements and "impeding progress in the region," while Chavez has repeatedly charged Washington with plotting invasion to overthrow his government.
(Xinhua News Agency April 18, 2009)