- Title: VENEZUELA: Chavez talks of Russia, Obama and domestic politics
- Date: 25th November 2008
- Summary: (BN06) CARACAS, VENEZUELA (NOVEMBER 24, 2008) (REUTERS) PAINTING OF VENEZUELAN INDEPENDENCE HERO SIMON BOLIVAR VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT HUGO CHAVEZ ARRIVING FOR NEWS CONFERENCE JOURNALISTS CHAVEZ SITTING AT A DESK SECURITY
- Embargoed: 10th December 2008 12:00
- Topics: International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVA8A2EVO1YOTPHF7S7WR7RLPYZT
- Story Text: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez discusses relations with Russia, praises U.S. President-elect Barack Obama and suggests constitutional reform at home concerning presidential re-elections.
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez ran the gamut of issues during a news conference in Caracas on Monday (November 24), discussing everything from the country's relationship with Russia, through U.S. president-elect Barack Obama, to a possible proposal for Venezuelan presidential re-election.
Chavez said a fleet of Russian warships was arriving in Venezuela on Tuesday (November 25) to conduct joint exercises as Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev arrives on Wednesday.
Medvedev's visit, part of a South American tour that includes Brazil and Cuba, comes as falling crude prices are worrying energy-producing countries like Russia and Venezuela.
OPEC-member Venezuela is Russia's first firm ally in the Americas to be established after the Cold War and Moscow sees ties to Chavez as a riposte to U.S. influence close to its own borders in the Caucasus.
"...up until a few years ago we did many exercises with forces of the United States -- ships, frigates; our F16 planes flew in Europe, flew in the United States. Now we cannot do exercises with the United States, evidently. How can we do exercises with the United States if they are coming to attack us openly, militarily, politically, economically, etc?," Chavez told Monday's news conference.
He said the naval exercises were not meant to anger Washington, which is his main oil client and a frequent target of his fiery speeches. However, Chavez welcomes Russia in his bid to lessen U.S. dominance in global politics and trade.
The U.S. government has dismissed the importance of Medvedev's trip to Venezuela and derided the Russian navy visit by wondering if the ships were "accompanied by tugboats".
Chavez praised Obama's future and praised him for not attending last weekend's G20 summit in Washington.
"I hope that they are not going to 'kill' Obama, that infernal machinery, because Obama, Obama is just someone who has generated hope in the world. To me it seems good that he did not go to that summit of Bush, the summit of the G20. I wouldn't have gone either, but instead (Obama) dedicated himself to solving the problem or the great problems that Bush is leaving him at the internal level," said Chavez.
The Venezueland president then addressed an issue many people have been wondering about: possibly running for re-election in 2012.
He said his political party could seek to change the law so he can run again, but added that he would not personally promote such a reform. Still, he said, his party could do it during 2009.
"Regarding the point you refer to about (Venezuelan) presidential re-election. I am not going to do it (propose it). What I cannot avoid is someone else doing it. I have said it to the people and they said to me 'four years of government'. Now the people have, according to this constitution, the right to ask the people, or sectors of the people, about constitutional reform," Chavez said.
Finally, he talked about the mixed bag of Venezuelan state election results from this weekend's vote. The multi-party opposition eroded Chavez's dominance of regional politics, winning six top posts that govern almost half of the population, although his Socialist Party took 17 state races -- a clear majority.
The governing party's mayor of Caracas lost to opposition opponent Antonio Ledezma. Chavez hoped the new mayor would still be able to work with those of the governing party, such as Jorge Rodriguez of Caracas's Liberatador municipality.
"But I hope the mayor (Ledezma) comes to coordinate with the mayors that work with Jorge Rodriguez, our mayor, with honesty, transparency and I am willing to support him. It is a responsibility," said Chavez.
Losing some political control will weigh on Chavez, especially as the world's economic turmoil has dragged the price of oil sharply lower, hurting his ability to finance popular welfare programmes.
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