— Pedro Burelli, a former Member of the Executive Board of Petróleos de Venezuela is a frequent commentator on matters dealing with Venezuela and oil. He is the Managing Partner of B+V Consulting, a corporate finance advisory firm. The views expressed are his own. —
In the early days of his unrelenting scrap with President George W. Bush, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez laid a boastful wager: I will outlast you! For most of eight years, Chavez accused Mister Danger – a favorite moniker – of trying to eliminate him and lobbed countless epithets – drunkard, assassin, devil, coward, illiterate, criminal, donkey are but a sample – against the growingly unpopular U.S. president.
Besides sky-rocketing oil prices, nothing aided Chavez’s domestic standing and international projection more than George W. Bush’s mere existence. Blaring “truth” to power and dispensing petrodollars left and right, north and south, brought Chavez both acolytes and notoriety.
President Bush never once uttered publicly the name of Venezuela’s latest caudillo, nor did he respond to any of his often obscene tirades. Close aides report that he almost lost his cool when Condoleezza Rice became the subject of the obscenities. But he chose not to react as nothing rattles a narcissist more than being ignored…all of the time! In effect, U.S. policy during the second part of the Bush administration was simply to ignore the man and his banter, but painstakingly track his deeds.
While there are mundane topics like energy and commerce that could eek out the beginnings of a dialogue; i.e. $75 billion of bilateral trade in 2008, there are a host of other issues that ensure the parties will remain miles apart. Verifiable facts will continue to impede fruitful dialogue between the U.S and Venezuela. The expectation that the incoming administration in Washington – full of seasoned hands – would shove this information aside and design an agenda to charm and mollify Caracas is ludicrous.