Obama Controversy in South America

April 20, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
President Obama is back in Washington, after a four-day trip to Latin America and a summit of western hemisphere leaders in Trinidad. Republicans are criticizing President Obama for being too friendly with Venezuela's leader Hugo Chavez.

The president defended his actions but G.O.P. leaders said it was careless. "I think it was irresponsible for the president to be seen kind of laughing and joking with Hugo Chavez," said Sen. John Ensign (R) Nevada.

"It's unlikely that as a consequence of me shaking hands or having a polite conversation with Mr. Chavez that we are endangering the strategic interests of the United States," said President Obama.

People in Venezuela opposed to Chavez welcome improved diplomatic ties and they support a call from Brazil's president for a future meeting between Chavez and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

They are urging President Obama not to warm up to the Venezuelan leader without also addressing concerns about democracy and human rights.

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