The U.S. ambassador to Venezuela has returned to his post — more than nine months after he was expelled by President Hugo Chavez.

Patrick Duddy said Wednesday that he hopes his return will be "the first step toward more productive relations."

Diplomatic ties between the two nations became strained under the Bush administration. In September, Chavez expelled Duddy in solidarity with Bolivia's president, who had kicked out the top U.S. diplomat on accusations of inciting violence.

Washington denied the charges and responded by expelling both countries' envoys.

But both Chavez and President Barack Obama have expressed hope for improved relations. The two governments agreed last week to restore ambassadors.