BRASILIA (AFP) – Despite a simmering diplomatic row, President Hugo Chavez and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were seen having a brief, friendly chat Saturday at the inauguration of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff.
“They talked and smiled, at least for five minutes. It looked like a social conversation, both were smiling,” a Brazilian official who witnessed the encounter told AFP on condition of anonymity.The encounter came only three days after the United States revoked the visa of Venezuela’s ambassador in Washington, in reprisal for Chavez’s rejection of the US president’s appointed ambassador to Caracas.But Chavez and Clinton were all smiles as they mingled with the presidents of Chile and Colombia and the prime minister of Portugal while waiting to meet Rousseff.
At one point, Chavez extended his hand to Clinton, who shook it, smiling. They chatted for a few minutes before moving on to formally greeting Rousseff.
There were no reports on what was said between them.
Chavez on Tuesday reaffirmed his decision to reject diplomat Larry Palmer as President Barack Obama’s ambassador-designate to Caracas, and challenged Washington to break off diplomatic relations if it didn’t like it.
The State Department responded the following day by revoking the visa of Venezuelan Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez, who was in Venezuela on vacation.
A US State Department spokesman on Wednesday said the visa revocation was an “appropriate, proportional and reciprocal action,” recalling that Washington had already warned of “consequences” Caracas if Caracas turned down the US ambassador-designate.
Palmer infuriated Chavez by criticizing his government during Senate confirmation hearings in August. He is still awaiting confirmation by the US Senate.