Hugo Chavez felt like he was on vacation. Since he had arrived in Tehran, he was greeted personally by several ministers, whisked away in a black Russian limo, and staying at the Hotel Azadi Grand at the corner of Chamran Road and Evin Road. The Government of Iran and reserved the top three floors of the fancy hotel for Hugo which had commanding views of the Tehran. This was a leafy part of the city, see Hugo saw lots of trees and white buildings. It was morning, and he was drinking a cup of hot and very black Venezuelan coffee while he stood in a white thick cotton bathrobe. The President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, personally promised a little surprise from Venezuela, and when room service arrived, it contained a large pot of Hugo's personally favorite home-grown coffee. As far as Hugo Chavez was concerned, Mahmoud was a gentlemen, a man who said what he believed, did not mince words, but nevertheless never forgot to be a good host.
Hugo had overslept. It was nearly 11 in the morning, Tehran time, and he was already two hours late for Mahmoud's personal meeting. Hugo was not about to be rushed on his vacation, and had found it amusing that Mahmoud's people called and said that the President of Iran would come to the Hotel Azadi Grand to meet with Hugo. It was suggested to meet in one of the hotel conference rooms, but Hugo would have none of it. Hugo wanted to meet in his hotel room and in his bathrobe with nothing underneath, drinking Venezuelan black coffee. To conduct important meetings in his bathrobe had become a personal tradition for Hugo. It made him feel powerful to be wielding power in the buff, or nearly in the buff.
There was a knock at the door, and then it opened, which was a bit of a surprise to Hugo. The door was opened by an Iranian security official and in walked Mahmoud, who spoke Spanish fluently. Hugo was about to protest the minor invasion of privacy, but Mahmoud had a big smile and an out-stretched hand, followed by two young men who closed the door and stood like sentries. Hugo was the only one in a bathrobe, he felt the thick puffy cotton of the bathrobe tickle his naked body as he took Mahmoud's hand and they both gave each other a strong solid handshake.
"Mr. President, my good friend from the West, I see you are quite casual. Do you wish to get dressed?" asked Mahmoud.
"No. No. I am going to go for a swim in your lovely hotel pool. May I have the pool to myself for laps?" asked Hugo.
"Of course. You are a swimmer?" asked Mahmoud.
"I do the breast stroke. Slow. It is very calming. Have a seat," said Hugo.
Mahmoud sat in one of two large thickly upholstered white chairs facing the floor to ceiling window facing the city below. Hugo joined him in the other chair as he took a sip of his black coffee.
"Thanks for the Venezuelan coffee. You are a good man," said Hugo.
"Ah, yes. The coffee. Your country makes two kinds of black gold. Oil and coffee," said Mahmoud.
Jeez, what a nice guy. This Mahmoud had charm. Hugo never thought of it that way before. Of course, Venezuelan coffee was not necessarily known as a place where great coffee was grown. But Hugo was trying to change that with all the government assistance he had been giving to his coffee growers.
"Unlike Bush, you have a lot of charm and know how to be a gentleman," said Hugo.
"Thank you, Mr. President. We try here in Iran to be good hosts and to speak with affection and good graces for everyone," said Mahmoud.
"Bush is an idiot," said Hugo.
"Well, I must tell you, Mr. President, that I did not have the same opinion. I thought Bush was a very shrewd and smart man. There was time that he used his power wisely. But I am no longer of that opinion. I have come to agree with you," said Mahmoud.
"Oh, god, I knew Bush was an idiot the first time I saw him on CNN," said Hugo.
"Think about it, Mr. President, Bush has the most powerful nation in the world and he cannot use any of his power. He has squandered his good will, his moral authority, he is tied up in knots in Iraq, and he has unleashed the voices of millions of Muslims and other oppressed peoples, making America and Israel the new axis of evil. It is astounding that this one man has single-handedly destroyed a great nation," said Mahmoud.
"Yeah, and look how much power he has given to both of us," said Hugo.
"Well, Mr. President, I would rather not characterize any power I may have as having been given to me by Bush. Iran has power because we assert what is right and ethical, not because a stupid man has given us power," said Mahmoud.
"Yes. Yes. Of course. But it is so much fun to poke fun at Bush. It plays so well, and you can do it all day long and the public lets you get away with it. In fact, the public loves it," said Hugo Chavez as he finished his third cup of black coffee.
"And ever since Iraq, Bush has lost Europe and the rest of the Western world. He only has Israel. America is alone, lost and going bankrupt," said Mahmoud.
"Yeah, because the Americans are paying three dollars for gasoline and giving the money to us. Boy, this is a very good time," said Hugo.
"And the truth of the matter is that America and Israel are diminishing in stature because they are afraid to really use all their power. CNN has seen to that," said Mahmoud.
"How's that?" asked Hugo.
"Oh, come on, Mr. President. If Bush wanted to, he could flatten Iran and Venezuela into thermonuclear wastelands. It would of course disrupt the world's economy and everyone's lives would change. But America could do this and take back the world with victory, a messy victory, but victory nonetheless. You see, what Bush has forgotten, or is too stupid to understand, is that the world wants victors, not losers. If America had success in Iraq, everything would be different. If Israel had destroyed Hezbollah, everything would be different. It is victory that gives a nation power, not bluster and big talk. If you combine bluster and big talk and then not achieve victory, then you are a big loser. And that is what Bush is," said Mahmoud.
Hugo Chavez had not remembered the President of Iran to be such a big talker. It was almost like Mahmoud ilked to hear himself speak, as if he were a university professor. Hugo had never much cared for the university elite of Caracas, and the slight lecturing mode of Mahmoud's delivery was a bit irritating to Hugo. But he would let it pass.
"Yeah, well, whatever. I want that swim now. You think I can do my swim and we can continue this conversation over lunch?" asked Hugo.
Mahmoud stood. "Of course. I wish to let you know that the money Iran is investing in Venezuela we have decided will be a loan and not an equity investment. I trust this is OK with you," said the President of Iran.
'Yeah. I guess. The terms, though. We need to discuss the terms" said Hugo as he remained sitting.
"But of course. But not us. We shall talk about bigger things. We let the discussion of terms be for people who work for us," said Mahmoud as he walked to the door. "Enjoy your swim," said Mahmoud as he left the hotel suite and the two Iranian security officials closed the door from behind leaving Hugo alone in his room in his white bathrobe holding an empty coffee cup.
This was a bad start to the day, thought Hugo. But his swim would make him feel better. He had lied to Mahmoud about the breast stroke. He really only did the puppy-dog stroke in the pool, much like a child. But after a swim and a shower, he would be ready to start enjoying this little trip to Tehran.