In video footage from Venezuelan state television that emerged Monday, the interaction between President Obama and President Hugo Chavez this past weekend at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago is shown to have not been all smiles and back-pats, as has been widely reported.
In the video, there seems to be a level of subtly awkward discord between the always-cool Obama and a rather peripatetic Chavez. A description from the Los Angeles Times notes:
No smiles in this exchange. In fact, Obama at first appears eager to walk away and is held back by Chavez. The American president then dominates the ongoing discussion and is seen gesturing with his right hand and pointing his finger several times at Chavez's chest.
No word yet from the White House on the contents of this little-known exchange.
HT: Jake Tapper
UPDATE: Some readers note that while the exchange between Chavez and Obama appears serious, it does not seem particularly heated or hostile. The reporter in the segment does not report anything new beyond what has been reported elsewhere, namely, that the two leaders got along well and expressed mutual respect. Though some have construed Obama's mannerisms in the video above to be tense, it may very well be that the leaders were discussing something serious beyond the fanfare of the event -- rather than from any perturbation or provocation from either side.
Other readers caution that Venezolana de Television, Venezuela's state run network and the only station to catch these particular encounters on tape, is often labeled by critics as a propaganda machine for Chavez. By these accounts, any state-provided interpretation of the conversation may require a grain of salt. The full conversation between the two leaders is yet to be commented on by any US representative.
The segment translates roughly as:
"At the end of the whole meeting President Barack Obama returned to approach President Hugo Chavez again, he took him again by the shoulder and told him, "Bye bye, my friend," which means, "Goodbye, my friend." We're going to replay for you exclusive images from Venezolano de Television (station name), a world introduction. It was the only media of all the press teams that have worked here on coverage of the 5th Summit of the Americas, that has obtained images of this encounter -- images, in video as well as photo, which can be seen by the whole world on the internet as well as, of course, the weekly offering of Venezolana de Television.
"This encounter, which we remind you took place today, would be the second opportunity in which the heads of state shared a moment at the 5th Summit of the Americas. The first was yesterday, if you will remember. President Hugo Chavez gave a gift [indiscernible] to Barack Obama, the book 'Open Veins of Latin America' by Eduardo Galeano. And we correct that that would not have been the first meeting. The first meeting was precisely during the inaugural session, when President Barack Obama approached to greet President Hugo chavez. And President Hugo Chavez in reciprocity gave him this gift by Eduardo Galeano, which, as we commented before, since that moment has risen in sales on an international scale. This meeting marked yesterday's summaries by the media. Not only here in Trinidad and Tabago, but the photo of this meeting was in the world, of this handshake between Barack Obama and Hugo chavez.
"As we were telling you, in the press releases we have been able to read, it is reported that this meeting between both heads of state has been of respect, cordiality and trust. For his part, Barack Obama has committed to not interfering the in internal affairs of the countries of this hemisphere. All have faith in these meetings that have taken place here, the meeting between Barack Obama and UNASUR, and the meeting between central American countries..."
According to John Hopkins University's Eduardo Gonzalez, the difference in this footage, as opposed to the previously publicized interaction when Chavez presented Galeano's book to Obama, is that this exchange is less ceremonial and far more authentic. "Hugo Chávez remains attentive and remarkably relaxed in listening. It is unthinkable that high-octane-Hugo would have listened to Obama, as attentively and relaxed as he seems, while feeling that he was being lectured at. I find the clip reassuring and remarkable as a testimony that a real connection was made. The earlier contact between them was more ceremonial; this one was almost off the cuff and physical, what we call in Spanish 'en confianza': amazing."
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