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Posts Tagged ‘US-Venezuela relations’

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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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Today there was an exciting development in public diplomacy that brought two communities together: the Venezuelan city of Carora and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. These two places have teamed up to build connections through cultural, educational, and economic activities. Notably, it is the first Sister City agreement made between the U.S. and Venezuela in ten years.

The Sister City program allows citizens from the two countries to unite on a local level, which helps build cross-cultural understanding. It can also add a human element to political realities.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said:

Our leaders of our representative countries have not had the warmest relations and that makes what we are doing today more important. If leaders don’t see eye to eye that doesn’t keep individuals from working together. Political leaders come and go, but at the local, grass-roots level there’s still the ability as human beings for us to make the world better.

City officials are looking forward to sharing ideas on issues such as water, dairy production and coffee exchange. Carora is creating a welcome house for visitors from Milwaukee where they can learn about the city’s rich heritage.  It is in fact one of the oldest colonial cities on the South American continent, founded for the first time in 1569.

Considering the cold temperatures in Wisconsin, Milwaukee’s new sister will likely attract her share of snowbirds next winter!

Stay tuned for updates.

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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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