In the interview that aired Friday, Obama wouldn't say if the United States recognizes Nicolas Maduro as Venezuela's new president following elections that have been disputed by the opposition.
When asked, he replied that it's up to the people of Venezuela to choose their leaders in legitimate elections.
He also said that reports indicate that basic principles of human rights, democracy, press freedom and freedom of assembly were not observed in Venezuela following the election.
Naturally, the Venezuelan government wasn't happy. You would think this would be an opportunity for Nicolás Maduro to assert himself. But that's not what happened.
In fact, what's interesting about the response is that it is all about Hugo Chávez, who is mentioned four times, once even as "Comandante Eterno." He is mentioned before Maduro, who gets only two inclusions, and both of them specifically mention that he is the heir of Chávez and just following his policies. Maduro is very clearly framed as a follower.
This isn't a winning political strategy. At some point the government will have to be Maduro's, and not the Chávez leftover. Already the country's political landscape has changed dramatically, and unless there are more birds flying around then it will have to be Maduro, not Chávez, who determines how the government evolves with it.