Obama statement expresses hope for better relations

U.S. President Barack Obama has marked the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, saying the United States looks forward to improved relations with Venezuela.

Obama’s statement on the passing of the Venezuelan leader was brief, one paragraph in all.

At this challenging time, Obama said, the U.S. reaffirms its support for the Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with Venezuela’s government.

As Venezuela begins a new chapter in its history, Obama continued, the U.S. remains committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.

President Obama met President Chávez only once. In 2009, they shook hands in a hotel meeting room on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago.

Chavez’s anti-American rhetoric, which reached a peak during the administration of former president George W. Bush, continued during the Obama administration.

After Obama voiced concern that Chavez’s government had aided Colombia’s leftist guerrillas, Chávez said Obama had the same stench as former president Bush.

In written responses last year to Venezuela’s El Universal newspaper, Obama voiced concern about Chávez government actions that he said “restricted universal rights, threatened basic democratic values and failed to contribute to security in the region.”

At the same time, Obama said he hoped to eventually have a better relationship with Venezuela.

The Obama administration continued to criticize Chavez’s close ties with Iran and Syria, as did critics of Chávez in the U.S. Congress.

The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican Ed Royce, issued a statement Tuesday calling President Chavez a tyrant and saying “his death dents the alliance of anti-U.S. leftist leaders in South America.”

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