[Marxism] NYT - Obama right to shake Chavez's hand, should lift blockade

Fred Fuentes fred.fuentes at gmail.com
Fri Apr 24 01:32:15 MDT 2009

Horrors! A Handshake!

Published: April 23, 2009

Republicans have been predicting the decline of American power ever
since President Obama was photographed at last week’s hemispheric
summit shaking the hand of President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and —
gasp! — smiling. Former Vice President Dick Cheney warned that that
act of civility would be viewed as a sign of “weakness.” Newt
Gingrich, who may be honing his attack skills for a presidential run,
said Mr. Obama’s behavior was bolstering “enemies of America.”

We have no patience for Mr. Chávez. He was elected as a champion of
the poor and has turned himself into a standard-issue autocrat —
playing the anti-America card to divert attention from his failed
economic policies and ever more outrageous power grabs.

But Venezuela is no strategic threat. And this country has paid far
too high a price in both power and influence for former President
George W. Bush’s bullying.

Mr. Obama got elected on a pledge to do things differently. At the
summit, years of antagonism gave way to eagerness for new relations
with Washington. Mr. Obama undercut Mr. Chávez’s bluster with that
handshake and his promise of a “new beginning” with Cuba.

Of course, Mr. Obama has to go further: offering more to, and asking
more of, his interlocutors. Even as he reaches out to Cuba by easing
(and, we hope, eventually lifting) the counterproductive embargo, he
must press Havana on human rights and democratic reforms. He must
press Mr. Chávez on the same issues.

The logic of his Iran strategy is to give Tehran a chance to come in
from the cold with offers of engagement and economic and security
incentives. If Tehran does not take him up on the offer — early signs
are not hopeful — he must build support for tougher international
sanctions to constrain Iran’s nuclear program.

The president will also have to ask more of America’s friends. Europe
treated him like a rock star on his recent continental tour, but he
still did not win enough support for NATO’s mission in Afghanistan.

None of this will be easy. And Mr. Obama will be held accountable for
his record — not just his rhetoric and photo ops. But starting with a
handshake rather than a fist makes sense to us.

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