Chavez endorses Obama, sure the US president would return the favor

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CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has weighed in on the U.S. presidential race, saying he prefers President Barack Obama.

“If I were American, I’d vote for Obama,” Chavez said in a televised interview that aired Sunday.

The Venezuelan leader called Obama “a good guy” and said if the U.S. president were a Venezuelan, “I think ... he’d vote for Chavez.”

Chavez is running for re-election, seeking another six years in office in an Oct. 7 vote. Obama faces Republican Mitt Romney in his November re-election bid.

Venezuela has had tense relations with the U.S. government for years, even though the United States remains the top buyer of oil from the country.

“I wish we could begin a new period of normal relations with the government of the United States,” Chavez said in the interview on the Venezuelan television channel Televen.

Chavez and Obama shook hands at a 2009 summit, but relations have since cooled.

The U.S. Embassy in Caracas has been without an ambassador since July 2010, with Chavez rejecting Washington’s nominee for ambassador, Larry Palmer, and accusing him of making disrespectful remarks about Venezuela’s government. That led Washington to revoke the visa of the Venezuelan ambassador to the U.S.

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