During a session of the summit of the Americas in Trinidad at the weekend, Chávez strode up to Obama, patted him on the shoulder and, with a friendly handshake, gave him a paperback copy of Eduardo Galeano’s 1973 work, Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent.

As footage of the encounter appeared on news bulletins, the book rocketed up the US paperback sales chart of the online bookseller Amazon, soaring from number 54,295 to sixth place within 24 hours.

A classic work in left-wing circles, Galeano’s book analyses five centuries of unequal relations with Europe and the US. It contends that Latin America has been abused as industrialised nations plundered its natural resources, ranging from gold and silver to cocoa and cotton.

Obama accepted the book in good humour, telling reporters: “I thought it was one of Chávez’s books. I was going to give him one of mine.”