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The Venezuela Reality Check

Today, former Vice President Dick Cheney, as well as Newt Gingrich and other Republican figures all chimed in with more critical thoughts about the nearly meaningless handshakes between President Obama and Venezuela's erratic leader, Hugo Chavez. Once again, some on the right are running with the photos of President Obama and Chavez shaking hands to cast further doubts about the president, his patriotism, and his resolve to stand up to radical leaders abroad.

But fact of the matter is that a handshake between the leaders of two states is a fairly meaningless gesture for two nations that are major trading partners. According to the U.S. Department Of State's own website, a full 57.5% of Venezuela's estimated 2008 $315.6 billion yearly economy is built on trade with the United States. The Netherlands is a distant second with just 5.2% trade with Venezuela. Mexico is third with just 4.5% trade. That figure for trade with the U.S. over 57% is indeed a very high trade figure. Despite the outrageous antics and speeches of Hugo Chavez, Venezuela still remains as by far the largest trade partner and export market for Venezuela. This is the all-important fact that Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich and others simply ignore from their discussion of the handshakes with Hugo Chavez. For the leaders of two nations with trade that runs into the billions of dollars, simply exchanging handshakes is pretty insignificant.

Dick Cheney and Newt Gingrich also are not very upfront that the 14,000 Citgo gas station retailers in the U.S. are affiliated with a Venezuelan company which is closely linked to the Venezuelan government and Hugo Chavez. Yet, neither Cheney or Gingrich seem to question the patriotism of American dealers or customers who choose to go with Citgo. citgo.jpg

Further, wealthy businessmen from Venezuela have billions more in other U.S. investments of all types including even horse racing and other sports. Yet the misleading nonsense coming from Cheney or Gingrich don't tell you that fact either.

Like all half-truths, the nonsense coming from Cheney and Gingrich over the simple two handshakes with Hugo Chavez don't really mean at all that much. Hugo Chavez used the opportunity to give President Obama a book that supposedly details an exploitative relationship with South America by the United States. However, this case is a little hard to make for Chavez when far more than half of his nation's trade and a large part of their $315 billion economy comes from trade with the U.S.

The fact of the matter is that President Obama knows full well that Hugo Chavez is an erratic kook who only continue to make crazy statements and be a thorn to the U.S., all the time seeking to sell billions of dollars of oil and agriculture here to the United States. Long ago, other major trade partners with the U.S. such as China realized that being pragmatic and only offering guarded critical statements about their differences with the U.S. is the best path. So far, Hugo Chavez hasn't grown that much as a world leader.

Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!

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Comments (10)


Trade isn't everything, Paul. Bending over to this clown makes us look weak, and to ignore the potential fallout is foolish.

There's always a price for weakness.

Paul Hooson:

Where did the U.S. yield anything to Chavez, Jb? On the other hand, billions in trade is only allowing Chavez to build up a military far in excess of his actual security needs. The final chapter of this U.S. and Venezuela drama has not been written. However, all of the trade with Venezuela does serve to actually moderate Chavez a little(unbelievably) and contain his actions somewhat. This trade does remain the most powerful potential tool that Washington still holds, although this nation easily exceeds the entire U.S. and several countries combined in oil output.


Paul, you have to realize that Jb is just spouting queer Rush's talking points. No matter what President Obama does, according to the GOP it's wrong.

Where was their complaints when Nixon talked to Mao? Where was their complaints when President Bush ran up the budget? Neither time did they say a frikking word about that.

So Jb, please don't let facts stand in the way, as the majority of Americans have seen through the GOP BS. If you don't believe me, then please explain the no longer used "family values" BS you used to put out there. Until then, get over being a sore loser!

Norris Hall:

America's traditional enemies are scratching their heads and trying to figure out what to do now that the US has a president that the world really likes.
After building their entire foreign policy on Anti Bush sentiment and relying on America to be a convient whipping boy , these guys now are having to rethink their foreign policy.
Without a conventient target to blame for their countires ills these guys will now have to figure out some other way to distract their poeple's attention from their own government shortcomings


As an American lawyer living in Venezuela, I have been in a position to closely observe the Chavez government for the past two years.

Chavez has dramatically improved the living standards for his people -- with free health care, free public education to the university level, subsidized food and housing for the poor. The Chavez government hasn't tortured, kidnapped or illegally invaded any foreign country. Its elections are exemplary.

The Bush-Cheney administration, on the other hand, brought the American people only illegal war, torture, suppression of our Constitutional rights, and the financial de-regulation which has destroyed the jobs, pensions and investments of our people. Health care is non-existent for almost 50 million of our people.

Chavez is demonized by the U.S. Media and the ruling class which owns it because he is a successful socialist, not because he is anti-democratic or a "clown".

Chavez is a highly intelligent leader who tells the truth as he sees it.

The U.S. Republicans, claiming they champion democracy, supported the illegal coup against Chavez's democratically elected government, just as they did in Chile. This is a truth the U.S. media does not want the American people to know, so they attempt to "clownify" Chavez.

Paul Hooson:

Hello Justina, I certainly welcome counter-viewpoints here such as yours. Certainly, Hugo Chavez has a great deal of oil and agricultural wealth income to improve things such as health care in his country. I don't doubt that because of his political philosophies as being a man of the "average person" in his country, that he has made life better for the poor and others, compared to other south american countries such as Mexico where the government favors the rights of the wealthy. However, many of the antics of Chavez have made him suspect in the U.S.

The U.S. has no problem trading with even outright Communists such as in China or Vietnam, because both of these nations usually behave in a very civil manner. For as much trade as Venezuela and Hugo Chavez has had with the U.S., Chavez needs to be more civil when disagrees with the United States, even he strongly disagreed with the Bush Administration for example.


justina, a few points that need cleaning up.

-the war in iraq was not illegal. various UN resolutions and congressional actions back up Bush's actions.

-the financial de-regulation that occured started under clinton. and was not the the root cause of the financial meltdown. that was precipitated by the quasi-government agencies Freddie Mac and Freddie Mae, with a huge helping hand from Frank and Dodd among other congressional leaders who blocked any attempts to reign them in.

-health care is not non-existant for 50 million americans. 47 million americans do not have health insurance. it breaks down that in actuality only about 8 million of those 47 are people who want health insurance and do not have it. imposing government mandated universal health care will make this problem worse, not better. and no one who shows up at an emergency room needing care will be turned away. even illegal immigrants.

-you may think chavez is intelligence. i think he's kinda dumb actually, and highly manipulative. have you listened to his rants about his enemies? he's definitly paranoid in the extreme.

oh, and here's a very telling point. you put out all of these things that are now "free" to his people. well, hate to break this to you, but nothing is free. somebody has to be paying for that. and he was paying for it by nationalizing the oil industry in Venz. and filling his coffers with the procedes. unfortunately, he got rid of all the people who actually knew what they were doing, and the oil infrastructure has been in decline. also the price of oil dropped. rather than actually work to improve the economic framework of his country, he looted one of it's economic bright spots and now the country is in a worse position.

and this travesty of changing the constitution to allow him to be elected president for his lifetime? come on, if you don't see this for the dictorial power play that it is, you surely are looking at the world through massive blinders. it's funny how you berate bush to no end, yet when his term was up, he left quietly, and with class.

oh, and yes, they did invade a neighboring country: columbia. google it. and if he's such a nice guy, why is the mayor of the Venz. captial hiding from him? and what about the opposition radio station he got shut down by refusing to renew their license?

oh hey, if he's such a great guy, why is he spending all those millions of dollars on russian military hardware?

i don't think he's a clown. i think he's ambitious and dangerous.

Paul Hooson:

Ke, like you, I'm highly wary of the intentions of Chavez when he seeks to buy so much military hardware far in excess of the actual basic self-defense needs for his nation. Like wacky Saddam Hussein and the old Iraq, a military far in excess of basic self-defense of a nation often can present an invasion danger to neighboring states at some point.

After WWI, there was little international supervision to prevent Germany from building such a strong military and violating WWI peace terms, and look what happened there. Certainly Chavez's military is not to that sort of point yet, however too large of a military in Venezuela should make some rival nations in South America wary at some point.

Chavez has gone a long way to make the U.S. and a lot of nations very wary by way of his own behavior and statements, not by any misrepresentation by anyone of that behavior.

I'm still fighting a losing battle with the flu today, where I've been too sick to eat since at least Saturday, but I still felt compelled to respond to Justina as well here.


you must be sick. i think we've agreed more than once this week. and it's only tuesday.

feel better.


It's the handshake heard 'round the world. The infamous image of a smiling President Barrack Obama greeting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez last week at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago. The handshake that sent conservatives into hiss fit high gear. The American people didn't buy it. And there's a good reason the American people didn't buy it, because it doesn't make sense.... It's unlikely that as a consequence of shaking hands or having a polite conversation with Mr. Chavez that we are endangering the strategic interest of the United States.

You see, Republicans don't understand diplomacy. Engagement. Negotiation. The political mastery behind Teddy Roosevelt's "Speak softly but carry a big stick" brilliance. To the contrary, they subscribe to the Speak like an obnoxious bully, carry a big stick, and beat everyone over the head with it philosophy. They simply don't get the strategy behind thinking before you speak, measuring your moves, not tipping your hat.

What about those enthusiastic handshakes between Donald Rumsfeld and Soddamn Insane? Saddam was hanged for crimes he committed while he had US support. How about the handholding between George W. Bush and the Saudis, who are among the world's most despicable tyrants? Etcetera ad nauseum ad infinitum. This is all senseless claptrap.


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Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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