When you watch this video of Hugo Chávez speaking about Barack Obama, you feel like it was probably the closest the Venezuelan president could bring himself to a complimenting an American leader. Quoted in Spanish newspaper El Pais, he says [our translation]:
Tomorrow the U.S. will have an election. The world awaits the arrival of a black president to the United States, we can say this is no small feat [...] We don't ask him to be a revolutionary, nor a socialist, but [we ask] that he rise to the moment in the world."
Chávez also says he will sit down and speak with Senator Obama, should he become president, and urge him to lift the embargo on Cuba. He seems particularly pleased that Obama is black, a detail that fits nicely with Chávez's own rhetoric of freeing the enslaved indigenous from the throws of capitalism.
So does this mean it's not so much the United States that Chávez finds so displeasing as it is President George W. Bush himself? It's no small news for Chávez, who recently kicked out the U.S. ambassador in Caracas, to promise friendly ties with "the Great Satan" under a new administration.
Of course, the U.S. public has grown equally skeptical of Chávez, so Obama might not be so grateful for the public endorsement. Yes, it is slightly reminiscent al-Qaeda's sort-of endorsement of John McCain. But privately, the Obama camp must be gratified to see that even the United States' most bitter critics are now trying to win the senator's good graces.