Chavez to Obama: 'Change US policy'

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez released a statement congratulating US president-elect Barack Obama, declaring that, "We are convinced that the time has come to establish new relations between our two countries and in our region, based on the principles of respect for sovereignty, equality and true co-operation", according to a November 6 Ultimas Noticias article.

"The historic election of an African descendant to the head of the most powerful nation in the world is a symptom of a change in the epoch, which has emanated from South America, and could now be touching the gates of the US itself", Chavez stated.

Radio Nacional de Venezuela reported on November 5 that Chavez had argued that Obama's first test would be to end the US blockade of Cuba.

Ultimas Noticias reported that Cuban minister for foreign investment, Marta Lomas, commented: "If Obama takes some action to reduce the blockade it will be very welcome, and for sure, it will help us.

"But we are prepared if the conditions stay the same."

Two days before the November 4 US presidential vote, Chavez called for talks with the expected new Obama administration — and urged clear changes in US foreign policy.

"Within 48 hours, a black man of African descent, from the poorest family background in Africa, will represent new blood in the United States presidency. I am ready to sit down with him and discuss a plan for mutual equality and respect, no more nor less", Chavez said, according to the November 3 Ultimas Noticias.

Chavez said that with a new government in the US, bilateral relations could enter "another stage, allowing for differences … We are revolutionaries, we are socialists, and we are not going to depart from this road."

"We are not asking that [Obama] become a revolutionary, that he become a socialist, only that as a black man he represent a point of departure … that we wish he become part of this significant moment which the world is living through now."

Chavez called for an Obama administration "to cease US aggressions against Venezuela and Iran, to end the war in Iraq".

Chavez added that he was sure Obama realised that "Chavez is no threat to the US, nor is he a tyrant …", according to Ultimas Noticias.

Chavez noted, however, that he was aware that the US-backed right-wing opposition in Venezuela were preparing plans to destabilise his government via the private banks, taking advantage of the world financial crisis.

If this occurred, Chavez stated: "I will take away the banks, I will expropriate them. I will not give one cent to the bankers."

For his part, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa stated: "I think that foreign affairs are going to be more reasonable, more humane, less imperialist. I think that Obama is going to apply greater attention to Latin America, but neither do I think there are going to be profound changes."

Bolivian President Evo Morales stated: "The world has turned a corner" with the triumph of Obama.

"In Bolivia, an Indian president; in the US a black president. I don´t know what´s hapapneing to the world."