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Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’

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It finally happened…the moment we’d all been waiting for! After years of strained relations in which George Bush would scarcely say his name, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at last got the respect he deserves from a US president.

Those of you who’ve hoped for improved US – Venezuela relations all these years no doubt smiled all day Saturday after seeing the photos. Maybe a few of you were even a little misty-eyed. The now-famous handshake even made the front page of the Saturday New York Times and has since been the subject of endless television, radio and print commentary.

The two leaders were friendly and gregarious, and Chavez presented Obama with a seminal work by Eduardo Galeano, The Open Veins of Latin America. The book has since enjoyed a meteoric rise in sales on the internet. It may not be easy to find in the library for a while, but is worth a read if you can get your hands on a copy.

It appears that the Summit of the Americas was a monumental step forward. From easing restrictions on Cuba to greeting leaders with an air of mutual respect and equality, things seem to be changing for the better.

Since the handshake, both the US and Venezuela are now considering the return of ambassadors. It remains to be seen how bilateral relations will play out, but prospects for respect and cooperation seem a bit brighter this Monday morning.

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Wondering what you’ll have to look forward after Obama’s inauguration comes and goes and all the parties are over?

Here’s something: the arrival of “the Dude.” That’s right, Venezuela’s master conductor Gustavo Dudamel comes to the U.S. to lead the Los Angeles Philharmonic next season.

He’s in New York this month conducting Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 5, and after that, he’s off to California.

Check out the latest from The Economist.

UPDATE: Somehow we missed this article from the Guardian about “El Sistema,” the world-famous youth music education program on which Dudamel was weaned.

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Si se puede! A Venezuelan pianist groomed by the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra will be performing at the inauguration of President elect Obama next week.

Her name is Gabriel Montero. She will perform with the master cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Itzhak Perlman, and clarenetist Anthony McGill — get this — right before Barack Obama takes the oath of office.

Montero says: “I’m very excited to be part of this great day. It’s going to be a great moment for the entire world.”

Montero is now a naturalized U.S. citizen. She first came north on an educational scholarship from the Venezuelan government.

In the clip below, watch her take a silly ditty that is the theme song for the BBC children’s program The Wombles and turn it into an amazingly beautiful improvised piece. Improvisation is Montero’s trademark, according to the New York Times.

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Ozzie Guillen is tired of the sour tone of U.S.-Venezuela relations in recent years.

Speaking from his home in Caracas, the Chicago White Sox manager weighed in on the financial crisis and the effect it may have on baseball. He said that “teams will have to look for alternatives, work with lower salaries.”

Guillen also expressed hope that President-elect Obama and Venezuela’s Chavez will strengthen relations. The AP reports that he added, “I’m not asking them to be great friends, but at least that they shake hands.”

After all, trade between the U.S. and Venezuela rose by about 50 percent in 2008.

Hopefully Santa Claus was listening.

Guillen is in Caracas to give Christmas gifts to children with cancer through his Oswaldo Guillen Foundation. Next year, he hopes to do the same thing in Chicago.

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