Skip to main content
Part of international coverage of

Obama finds support among Chavez faithful in Caracas

By Girish Gupta, Special to CNN
October 24, 2012 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
Barack Obama received a somewhat surprising endorsement in early October when Hugo Chavez called said, "I'd vote for Obama." In 2009, Chavez shook hands with the president and gave him the book "Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent" during a summit. Barack Obama received a somewhat surprising endorsement in early October when Hugo Chavez called said, "I'd vote for Obama." In 2009, Chavez shook hands with the president and gave him the book "Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent" during a summit.
HIDE CAPTION
Election 2012: Postcard from Caracas
Election 2012: Postcard from Caracas
Election 2012: Postcard from Caracas
Election 2012: Postcard from Caracas
Election 2012: Postcard from Caracas
Election 2012: Postcard from Caracas
Election 2012: Postcard from Caracas
Election 2012: Postcard from Caracas
Election 2012: Postcard from Caracas
Election 2012: Postcard from Caracas
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Hugo Chavez endorsed Obama, calling him a 'good guy'
  • Venezuela-U.S. relations have been rocky for more than a decade
  • Romney's harder stance on Chavez appeals to Venezuelan opposition
  • America remains Venezuela's biggest oil market

Editor's note: Girish Gupta is a British freelance journalist based in Caracas, Venezuela. His work has appeared in TIME, Reuters, BBC and many other news outlets.

Caracas, Venezuela (CNN) -- Standing in his food shack under posters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in a Caracas slum, 70-year-old Miguel Bigello relays his backhanded support for Barack Obama.

"For all the deaths he's caused, he's not touched Latin America," he said. "The other guy [Mitt Romney] is too radical. He will fight here for the oil."

The elderly man is an avid supporter of Chavez, his "Comandante," and in the small wooden hut sits a carving of the face of Che Guevara as well as a poster depicting Latin American independence hero Símon Bolívar.

Girish Gupta
Girish Gupta

Postcard: Why 'Obamagic' has worn off in Nigeria

Bigello shares the view of his president. "If I was from the U.S., I'd vote for Obama," Chavez said buoyantly on state television just a week before he won his third six-year term two weeks ago, potentially extending his tenure to two decades. "Obama is a good guy."

Venezuela is still hungover from its own presidential election and in this fervently political country — mostly thanks to Chavez's ubiquity, strength of personality and polarizing policies — the U.S. election campaign offers some light relief after a trying few months.

Map: The world weighs in on the U.S. election

The contest between Chavez and Henrique Capriles, the Venezuelan opposition's first real hope in 14 years, made the Romney-Obama matchup look like child's play. Chavez welcomed his opponent to the ring in February by calling him a "low-life pig" who would be "pulverized." There were no debates here as Chavez felt Capriles was below him. "The eagle does not chase flies," said a defiant Chavez.

Postcard: Why Berliners, U.S. are kindred spirits

The self-styled socialist leader's supporters see Obama taking a leaf out of Chavez's book. "Obama is working for the people just like Chavez," said Gomez Darwin, 42, stood under a huge Che Guevara mural in a primarily Chavez-supporting Caracas barrio.

However, it is the contenders' world views which really matter here. Gloria Torres helped organize prayer vigils for Chavez as he suffered cancer last year. "Obama's policies towards Latin America haven't been aggressive," she said, offering her support for the U.S. incumbent before adding: "The other guy doesn't seem to have any friendly intentions towards us!"

Venezuela has come up a number of times in Republican rhetoric during the U.S. race. Mitt Romney branded the Venezuelan government a "threat to national security" earlier this year, adding that Chavez had spread "dictatorships and tyranny throughout Latin America."

Postcard: Obama's 'hope' a mirage for hostile Pakistanis

Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan, added: "In a Mitt Romney administration, we will not keep practicing this policy of appeasement ... We will be tough on [Cuban President Raúl] Castro, tough on Chavez. It's because we know that's the right policy for our country."

This antagonism from the Romney camp towards Chavez — compared to Obama's softer approach — has attracted some of Venezuela's more wealthy hard-line opposition.

"Romney named Chavez in his manifesto; Obama didn't," said Aixa Armas, eating breakfast at one of Caracas' high-end hotels. "Obama has closed his eyes to the problem, a regional problem, and he is too friendly with Chavez."

Postcard: War-scarred Baghdad has little faith in election

The lubricant between Caracas and Washington is the world's highest oil reserves on which Chavez sits. It is that wealth that has kept Venezuela's economy from collapsing -- despite epic mismanagement which has led to the region's highest inflation rate and a severe shortage of U.S. dollars. America is Venezuela's biggest oil market and the Latin American country is among the top five exporters to the U.S..

"The U.S. remains the only actual customer paying cash and at full-price," said Russ Dallen, head trader at Caracas' BBO Financial Services. "Romney may want to use that leverage to stop subsidizing a thorn in America's side."

Dallen adds that Venezuela, or at least the Chavez government, needs oil prices to stay high, and Obama may be a safer bet for that. "Obama is more willing to tolerate high gasoline prices because gas at $4 a gallon makes people more willing to invest in alternative technologies and for those technologies to be more cost effective."

Postcard: Obama, Romney ignore Afghans at own peril

Chavez is unlikely to be thinking in such depth. His support for Obama recently marks the apex of the 58-year-old strongman's relations with Washington since coming to power in 1999. The infamous nadir came in 2006 when Chavez stood at the United Nations lectern, theatrically sniffing the air. "The devil came here yesterday," he said, a day after former President George W Bush's speech. "It smells of sulfur still." He then went onto describe Bush's "domination, exploitation, and pillage of the peoples of the world."

Chavez quipped two weeks ago that Obama would support him too, had he been born in Venezuela's slums. After some shaky relations, Chavez is prepared to start again. "With the likely triumph of Obama, and the extreme right defeated both here and there [in the U.S.], I hope we can start a new period of normal relations."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Get all the latest news in Campaign 2012 at CNN's Election Center. There's the latest news, a delegate counter and much more.
From Cuba to South Africa to Japan, people on five continents tell CNN what they're looking for in a U.S. president.
November 7, 2012 -- Updated 1640 GMT (0040 HKT)
The dead-even U.S. election race reflects the nation's deep political chasm across the country. CNN brings you the best election day pictures.
As Americans head to the polls Security Clearance takes one last look at some of the most pressing foreign policy issues facing the candidates.
They represent a sliver of the electorate, yet their choices on Election Day could make a difference.
November 7, 2012 -- Updated 0259 GMT (1059 HKT)
The Chinese artist and political dissident says the American system has flaws -- but that China's system is "inhuman."
October 10, 2012 -- Updated 1053 GMT (1853 HKT)
Afghans fear the silence over the bloody 11-year-old war during the U.S. campaign means it is no longer a foreign policy priority.
October 26, 2012 -- Updated 0928 GMT (1728 HKT)
Memories of his father may be fading in Kenya -- but from the clubs to the teeming barrios for which Nairobi is notorious, his son is widely admired.
November 6, 2012 -- Updated 1105 GMT (1905 HKT)
A look back at CNN's election night coverage, going all the way back to 1980.
October 24, 2012 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
Hugo Chavez has endorsed Barack Obama, calling him a "good guy." Is there hope for a fresh start between the U.S. and Venezuela?
Predict which candidate will win each state and see who reaches 270 electoral votes first.
November 5, 2012 -- Updated 1343 GMT (2143 HKT)
CNN's Tom Foreman explains how the Electoral College works and what would happen if there were a tie.
October 24, 2012 -- Updated 1312 GMT (2112 HKT)
Nigerians were thrilled when a "son of Africa" won in 2008. The luster has worn off, but has any of it found its way to Romney?
November 5, 2012 -- Updated 1332 GMT (2132 HKT)
If there's one thing that would have struck a chord with Hong Kongers, it was Barack Obama and Mitt Romney using China as a political punching bag.
October 23, 2012 -- Updated 1753 GMT (0153 HKT)
China bashing has taken center stage in the U.S. election, where everyone seem bent on casting China as the bad guy.
Christian Amanpour says the chance to transform Afghanistan is slipping away -- and that the election won't make a difference.
October 17, 2012 -- Updated 0937 GMT (1737 HKT)
Obama's "Yes we can" message has long faded away amid plummeting relations between the two countries, writes Masud Alam.
See where the nation stands on one of the tightest races for the White House in years. Follow the numbers as Americans flock to the polls.
November 6, 2012 -- Updated 2120 GMT (0520 HKT)
With the months-long campaign finished and the presidential election under way, CNN brings you the best pictures from the campaign trail.
October 12, 2012 -- Updated 1052 GMT (1852 HKT)
For many in Iraq following the U.S. election, the Republican party remains the party of deeply-despised George W. Bush.
October 11, 2012 -- Updated 1601 GMT (0001 HKT)
After months of talking about each other, Obama and Romney finally go toe-to-toe. But do debates actually affect election outcomes?
Use an interactive map to explore the money game and the strategies of the Obama and Romney campaigns.
October 8, 2012 -- Updated 2151 GMT (0551 HKT)
Mitt Romney promises to take the U.S. back to a foreign policy based on exerting global influence through military and economic power.
October 2, 2012 -- Updated 2047 GMT (0447 HKT)
Brooke Baldwin talks to Erin Burnett about foreign policy being a major component of the 2012 presidential election.
October 9, 2012 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
CNN fact checks Mitt Romney's claim that Barack Obama was 'silent' when anti-regime protests broke out in Iran in 2009.
October 9, 2012 -- Updated 1307 GMT (2107 HKT)
Yanis Varoufakis says some Athenians fear Europe is waiting until after the U.S. election before cutting Greece loose from the euro.
Get the latest political news, campaign stories, and Washington coverage from CNN's team of political experts.
CNN's Security Clearance experts take a country-by-country look at the differences between the candidates' approach to foreign policy.
October 9, 2012 -- Updated 1308 GMT (2108 HKT)
Whoever wins the upcoming U.S. election will find Cuba in a state of flux, says Nobel Prize nominee Yoani Sanchez.
July 29, 2012 -- Updated 1345 GMT (2145 HKT)
Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem tell CNN which U.S. presidential candidate is better for their cause.
July 21, 2012 -- Updated 0910 GMT (1710 HKT)
People in London step up to CNN's Open Mic and deliver their messages to the U.S. and its presidential candidates.
May 22, 2012 -- Updated 1416 GMT (2216 HKT)
Award-winning novelist Manu Joseph says there must be something about human nature that divides the species into Democrats and Republicans.
June 1, 2012 -- Updated 0604 GMT (1404 HKT)
Mexicans step up to CNN's Open Mic and offer their messages to the U.S. presidential candidates.
April 24, 2012 -- Updated 1038 GMT (1838 HKT)
The U.S. election race conjures up images of mud flying through the air for many Japanese.
March 5, 2012 -- Updated 2154 GMT (0554 HKT)
With the amount of campaign spending in the U.S. projected to exceed $6 billion, we look at how this compares to other countries.
ADVERTISEMENT