Here’s an image I would not have expected to see this time last year – Hugo Chavez dapping up the President of the United States. You can see very clearly that this is not a hand shake. President Obama’s palm connects with Chavez’ at a 45 degree angle with their fingers damn near wrapped around each other’s wrists. This, ladies and gentlemen, is full blown dappage – the type of exchange we expect to see between play cousins, college roommates and basketball teammates. Could this small gesture be foreshadowing President Obama’s international diplomatic relations strategy? I must admit, it’s difficult to envision Obama at point guard, lobbing up an ally for Chavez to flush – but he is in negotiations to take Cuba off the bench, so you never know.
The brief exchange took place in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago where Presidents Barack Obama, Hugo Chavez and over 30 of their hemispheric counterparts came together at the 5th Summit of the Americas. Obama has taken some heat some for the greeting, including criticism from Republican Senator John Ensign of Nevada who called President Obama “irresponsible” for “laughing and joking” with the Venezuelan president. Senator Ensign is probably still salty at Chavez for calling former President George W. Bush the devil in 2006. Obama brushed Ensign’s critique off his shoulder, saying that the 2008 presidential campaign proved that American voters wanted a president who would engage his/her counterparts, whether or not they are avowed friends of the U.S. (read more @ the LA Times article “Obama defends greeting Hugo Chavez”).
I personally take issue with Obama for this comment, because I do believe Hugo Chavez to be an avowed friend of the United States. He was one of the first international leaders to condemn George W. Bush for his leisurely response to Hurricane Katrina, calling him “the King of Vacations.” While George W. Bush was relaxing at his Texas ranch and the citizens of New Orleans were drowning, Hugo Chavez was organizing humanitarian workers, reserving fuel and raising over $1,000,000 of Hurricane relief funds. “It’s a terrible tragedy that our North American brothers are living through,” Chavez said, adding that the area hit by Katrina includes “some of the poorest in the United States, most of them black.” So, as Black Americans trying to decide who the real friends the United States citizens are, I’m more inclined to agree with Kanye West, who said “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people.” But I digress.
Really, I just wanted to share these pictures with yall because I think they look cool and they make me excited. And while I don’t want to get preemptively excited about nothing, one small morsel that makes me optimistic is that it was Obama who strode over to Chavez and introduced himself. This type of proactive initiative is just the type of gesture that helps nurture open dialogue.
What do you think about these pictures? Are there any political implications?