Venezuela is one of the top four suppliers of oil to the United States. And the United States is Venezuela's top trading partner. Yet relations between these countries are very bad. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, elected in 1998, has charted an independent course in world affairs often in defiance of the United States.
The Chavez Path:
Chavez has cultivated relationships with long time American enemies including Cuba, Iran, and Libya. He has been highly critical of U.S. trade policy in Latin America and the Iraq War. In a 2006 speech to the United Nations, Chavez called U.S. President Bush a "devil" even saying that he could still smell the "sulfur" at the podium where Bush spoke the previous day.
"Unfortunately, today in Venezuela we see a regime that is increasingly out of step with the world. Its irresponsible rhetoric and behavior have drawn rebukes from several neighbors resentful of Chavez’ meddling in their internal political affairs. In sum, in the international community’s fight against terrorism, Venezuela is a liability," said the U.S. State Department's Principal Deputy Coordinator for Counterterrorism Frank C. Urbancic in testimony to Congress, July 13, 2006.
Coup and Assassination:
In April 2002 a short-lived coup briefly removed Chavez from office. He claims the United States not only supported the coup but is still secretly working to overthrow his government. These claims have not been substantiated. In August, 2005, American religious broadcaster Pat Robertson suggested the United States should assassinate Chavez. He later apologized.