President Barack Obama didn't offer deep sympathy following the death of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, instead reiterating U.S. interest in restoring ties with the country.
"At this challenging time of President Hugo Chavez's passing," Obama said in a statement issued hours after Chavez's death was confirmed, "the United States reaffirms its support for the Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government. As Venezuela begins a new chapter in its history, the United States remains committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights."Hours before Chavez's death was reported, his illness was raised at the White House daily press briefing -- along with Venezuela's decision to expel the U.S. diplomatic attache for allegedly plotting against the Venezuelan government.
Though White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said at the time he was unaware of the allegations and referred questions about Chavez's illness to the Venezuelan government, he added that the U.S. remains interested in a better relationship with the country.
"I can tell you that we continue to seek a functional and productive relationship with Venezuela," Carney said. "We remain open to a dialogue with Venezuela on a range of issues of mutual understanding, including counternarcotics, counterterrorism, and the commercial relationship between the two countries, including energy."