Hugo Chavez: "If I Were American, I'd Vote For Obama"
President Barack Obama received an endorsement Sunday night that he will not be flaunting.
"If I were American, I'd vote for Obama," Chavez said.
Chavez, who is also running for re-election, called the president "a good guy."
"I think that if Obama was from Barlovento or some Caracas neighborhood, he’d vote for Chavez," the Venezuelan leader said.
Following Clint Eastwood's speech at the Republican National Convention, Chavez offered rare praise for Obama.
"Obama received harsh criticism from Clint Eastwood, who is a great actor but a man of the right, he always has been," Chavez said, according to Bloomberg. "Obama’s response was very wise. He said 'I admire Clint Eastwood, and whoever is easily offended should seek another profession.'"
Since 2002, when Chavez accused the U.S. of backing a failed coup attempt against him, relations between the two countries have been tense.
According to the Associated Press, the U.S. Embassy has been without an ambassador since July 2010 after Chavez rejected Washington’s nominee. In response, the U.S. government revoked the visa of the Venezuelan ambassador.
Chavez has even gone so far as to say publicly that the U.S. may have given him and five current and former South American leaders cancer.
"It would not be strange if they had developed the technology to induce cancer and nobody knew about it until now...I don’t know. I’m just reflecting," Chavez said.
According to El Universal, Chavez said that he feels he has recovered from his bout with cancer and is capable of running the country.
But the Venezuelan leader is interested in repairing diplomatic ties with the U.S. At the Summit of the Americas in 2009, Chavez and Obama shook hands and according to the U.S. State Department, "agreed to seek a relationship based on a mutual interest."
"I wish we could begin a new period of normal relations with the government of the United States," Chavez said to Venezuelan television channel Televen.
According to the State Department, the U.S. accounts for 24 percent of imports and 42 percent of Venezuelan exports going to the U.S.
Venezuela also serves as America’s fifth-largest export market in Latin America. It frequently purchases machinery, transportation equipment, agricultural commodities and auto parts from the U.S.
The relationship between both nations becomes closer in regards to oil. According to the state department the U.S. is Venezuela's "single most important customer for Venezuelan oil."
In 2010, Venezuela shipped an average of 987,000 barrels of crude oil and petroleum products to the U.S. per day, which accounted for approximately half of the country's exports.
Meanwhile Venezuela's alliance with Iran has drawn ire from the U.S. government.
Chavez has called the country "a close ally" and the two nations have signed agreements in the oil, energy, industrial and commercial sectors.
He has also reached out to North Korea, Belarus and Syria in the past.
Venezuelan elections are set to take place Oct. 7. Chavez is being challenged by opposition candidate Henrique Capriles.
According to ABC News, Capriles currently leads in reputable polls by a small margin.
Reach Staff Reporter Steven Covelman here.