While campaigning for re-election as Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez shared his thoughts on the American presidential contest. “If I were American, I’d vote for Obama” Chavez said in a televised endorsement during an interview that aired Sunday.
The Venezuelan leader called President Obama “a good guy” and said if the U.S. president were a Venezuelan, “I think … he’d vote for Chavez,” he went on to say “I wish we could begin a new period of normal relations with the government of the United States,” Chavez said in the interview on the Venezuelan television channel Televen.
The most recent comments are in stark contrast to last year when it was reported that Chavez called Obama “a clown” as well as an “embarrassment.”
Chavez described Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s ideas as “extreme right-wing” and called them “a truly irrational thing.”
Chavez, who has been in power more than 13 years, is seeking another six years in office and is in a tight re-election race of his own against opposition candidate Henrique Capriles in a vote to be held on October 7. Obama faces Romney in his November re-election bid.
Venezuela has had tense relations with the U.S. government for years. The U.S. Embassy in Caracas has been without an ambassador since July 2010, with Chavez rejecting Washington’s nominee for ambassador, Larry Palmer, and accusing him of making disrespectful remarks about Venezuela’s government. That led Washington to revoke the visa of the Venezuelan ambassador to the U.S.
US Department of State on US-Venezuela relations
Despite the tense relations, the United States remains the top buyer of oil from the country. The U.S. buys one million barrels a day, a third of the total number of barrels of oil Venezuela sales daily.
Chavez has stepped up shipments to China in an effort to reduce reliance on the United States as the main market for the bulk of its oil. China now buys 640,000 barrels of oil a day, up from 264,000 barrels in February. The Venezuelan government announced earlier this year that the goal is to sell one million barrels a day to China, equaling the U.S. purchases.
Venezuelan Oil Distribution 2010
Before the socialist leader took office in 1999, Venezuela did not ship oil to China, but petroleum exports have steadily increased over the last decade. Chavez said last year that China could soon surpass the United States as Venezuela’s No. 1 trade partner due to a strategic alliance between the two countries.
Venezuela produces about three million barrels of oil per day according to state figures, but the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) says the oil supply is 2.3 million.
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