By Elise Labott
Ever since he called former President George W. Bush "the devil" in a speech to the United Nations, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez had been America's boogeyman to the South. Will his death brings the promise of a diplomatic thaw between United States and Venezuela?
In announcing Chavez's death on Tuesday, his anointed heir, Vice President Nicolas Maduro, accused the United States of a conspiracy to kill Chavez and expelled two American military members working in the U.S. Embassy in Caracas.
After categorically denying the charges, the White House issued a curt, three-line statement about Chavez's death, stripped of any condolences for the leader many Venezuelans revered but with whom Washington's relations were icy at best.
While President Barack Obama signaled support for the Venezuelan people and called for a "constructive relationship" with the government, the statement said the United States "remains committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights."