"The prospect of the transition from Chavez to another leader opened up the possibility of resetting the relationship and putting it not necessarily on a friendly course, but on a correct course," expert Cynthia Arnson told AFP.

The first essential step would be to reinstate their ambassadors, said Arnson, director of the Latin American program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

But Chavez, who since assuming power in 1999 has long worked to forge an anti-US alliance among leftist leaders in Latin America, "was not really interested" in boosting ties, Arnson said.

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