Hugo Chavez said on Saturday that he is restoring Venezuela's ambassador in Washington, voicing hopes for a "new era" in US relations after barely getting to know US President Barack Obama at a regional summit.
Venezuela's socialist leader told reporters at the Summit of the Americas that he will propose Roy Chaderton, the South American nation's current ambassador to The Organization of American States, as the new diplomat in Washington.
Chavez expelled the US ambassador to Venezuela, Patrick Duddy, in September in solidarity with Bolivian President Evo Morales, who ordered out the top US diplomat in his country for allegedly helping the opposition incite violence.
Washington reciprocated by kicking out both nations' ambassadors. Chavez announced his decision Saturday after a day of interactions with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other US diplomats at a hemispheric summit in the twin-island Caribbean republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
Chavez, who had stormy relations with the former administration of President George W Bush, has warmed to the new US president at the summit.
On Saturday, he gave Obama a book and repeated in English during a luncheon speech what he told the US president the previous night at their first meeting: "I want to be your friend." Chavez told reporters that he'd instructed his foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, to begin the process of making Chaderton his new US ambassador.
"He's my candidate," said Chavez. "We have to wait for the United States to give the appropriate acceptance." There was no immediate reaction from the US delegation. At the 34-nation summit's inauguration on Friday, Obama won repeated applause with his promise to be an equal partner in the region and expressed his desire for a "new beginning" with Cuba, which was suspended from the OAS for 47 years.
Chavez has led the charge for demanding that the communist island nation be reinstated, and praised Obama's Friday night speech.