CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has weighed in on the U.S. presidential race, saying he prefers President Barack Obama.

"If I were American, I'd vote for Obama," Chavez said in a televised interview that aired Sunday.

The Venezuelan leader called Obama "a good guy" and said if the U.S. president were a Venezuelan, "I think ... he'd vote for Chavez."

Chavez is running for re-election, seeking another six years in office in an Oct. 7 vote. Obama faces Republican Mitt Romney in his November re-election bid.

Venezuela has had tense relations with the U.S. government for years, even though the United States remains the top buyer of oil from the country.

"I wish we could begin a new period of normal relations with the government of the United States," Chavez said in the interview on the Venezuelan television channel Televen.

Chavez and Obama shook hands at a 2009 summit, but relations have since cooled.

The U.S. Embassy in Caracas has been without an ambassador since July 2010, with Chavez rejecting Washington's nominee for ambassador, Larry Palmer, and accusing him of making disrespectful remarks about Venezuela's government. That led Washington to revoke the visa of the Venezuelan ambassador to the U.S.

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  • February 4, 1992

    In February 1992, Venezuelan lieutenant colonel Hugo Chávez Frías led a loyal secretive military cell, the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement, in a coup to overthrow the government of President Carlos Andres Perez. The coup, known as Operation Zamora, failed and Chávez was arrested.

  • March 26, 1994

    In March 1994, Chávez was released from jail by newly elected Venezuelan president Rafael Caldera. In the following years, Chávez traveled across Venezuela and Latin America to talk about his political views and founded a social democratic party, the Fifth Republic Movement, in 1997.

  • December 6, 1998

    In December 1998 Chávez was elected president of Venezuela, supported by the poor and large parts of the middle class. He was inaugurated in February 1999 in Caracas, giving a remarkable speech in which he announced sweeping reforms.

  • Chávez during his inauguration as president in February 1999.

  • As president, Chávez formed close ties with socialist leaders of neighboring countries; Cuba's Fidel Castro and Bolivia's Evo Morales.

  • In 2000, Chávez was reelected for a second term. During the president's second term, Venezuela became one of the world's largest exporters of crude oil. Chávez nationalized much of the oil industry under a state run-company, Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. During his second term, Chávez stepped up criticism of the United States, coming out as a strong opponent of American intervention in the Middle East.

  • January 2001

    In January 2001, a first series of massive demonstrations broke out as thousands protested the government's suggested educational reforms.

  • April 11, 2002

    In April 2002, new large protest take a violent turn. Twenty people were killed and over a hundred were wounded. A group of high-ranking officers launched a coup against the president and Chávez agreed to step down. Yet only days later, newly appointed president Pedro Carmona resigned and Chávez took over control.

  • April 14, 2002

    Chávez addresses the nation after being back in power on April 14, 2002.

  • December 2002

    Hundreds of thousands took to the streets in December 2002, demanding the ouster of the presidents. Venezuela was held in the grip of a two-month long strike that crippled the country's economy.

  • August 14, 2004

    An August 2004-referendum to recall Chávez from power fails.

  • December 2006

    In December 2006, Chávez is reelected for a third term in office, again taking home a landslide victory. "Today, a new era has started, with the expansion of the revolution, of a revolutionary democracy," Chavez supporter crowds.

  • February 19, 2009

    In a 2009-referendum Venezuelans approved an alteration of the constitution, abolishing the two-term limit for public offices. The change clears the path for Chávez to run in the 2012 elections.

  • June 2011

    After traveling to Cuba for treatment, Chávez announced he underwent cancer surgery and would start chemotherapy. The president did not specify which cancer he was fighting.