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."
By Jill Dougherty
They don't get much more anti-American than Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.
For many Americans, the Latin American president is embodied by his 2006 lashing out at then-U.S. President George W. Bush.
"Yesterday the devil came here and it still smells of sulfur today."
For the United States, the socialist Chavez has been a diplomatic troublemaker ever since he took office for the first time in 1999.
But that doesn't mean the United States has given up on Venezuela. Especially with Chavez - who is undergoing cancer treatment in a Cuban hospital and battling complications - being too sick to attend his own inauguration for a new six-year term.
By Jill Dougherty and Jamie Crawford
Speculation is swirling that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is sicker than the government is letting on and there is some thought the United States may be trying to influence the socialist leader’s transition from power.
Chavez, 58, has not been seen in public since arriving in Cuba for his fourth cancer operation more than three weeks ago.
A top Venezuelan official said on Thursday that Chavez was suffering from a severe lung infection that has caused respiratory failure. The type of cancer he is fighting has not been disclosed and there was no word on his prognosis.
The National Institutes of Health says the outlook for respiratory failure “depends on the severity of its underlying cause, how quickly treatment begins” and overall health of the patient.