Chilly U.S.-Venezuelan relations thawed at the Fifth Summit of the Americas last week in Trinidad Tobago when Hugo Chavez granted Obama a copy of Uruguayan author Eduardo Galleano's seminal The Open Veins of Latin America before transferring control of an island in the Delaware River to the good people of New Jersey.
On Obama's plans to read Galleano's 1971 analysis of five centuries of rape and pillage in Latin America by foreign powers, a White House spokesman said "I think it's in Spanish, so that might be a tad on the difficult side."
This came after American involvement in Latin America was bruisingly assailed by several summit leaders including Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega. Obama may have been tired of the rhetoric at that point but, if he finds some room on his reading list, the White House should note the edition has been translated into dozens of languages, including English.
Chavez also reached out to the people of New Jersey with the unexpected transfer of Petty's Island in the Delaware River near Philadephia, which had been under Venezuelan control via Petroleos de Venezuela for decades. The State of New Jersey, in collaboration with The New Jersey Land Trust, is developing plans to turn the 392-acre island cum depot into a nature preserve.
A statement out of Caracas said of the island transfer that "President Hugo Chavez underscored that the relations with the North American country are getting stronger with actions like this one, in the framework of respect and looking for equity."