the republic logo

Signs of rapprochement as US, Venezuelan officials meet; Maduro mentions normalized relations

bug
Share/Save/Bookmark

CARACAS, Venezuela — President says a recent meeting between Venezuelan and U.S. officials has opened an important channel that could lead toward restoration of full diplomatic relations.

Maduro's comments came Monday night following a Saturday meeting in Haiti that included Venezuelan National Assembly head , Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez and senior U.S. State Department official Tom Shannon. Haitian President mediated.

The State Department called the bilateral talks "positive and productive."

Relations between the two countries have rarely run smooth, but they deteriorated rapidly earlier this year after Venezuela imposed a visa requirement for U.S. tourists and ordered the U.S. to slash its embassy staff in Caracas. Washington then declared Venezuela a security threat and imposed sanctions on top officials.

Maduro has often accused the U.S. of plotting to overthrow his socialist government, and but he has recently backed off from more flamboyant rhetoric, such as leading weekly chants of "Gringo, go home."

During a national television address Monday night, he said the two countries were now working "to normalize diplomatic relations on the basis of respect," with Cabello, the country's second most powerful official, heading up the effort from Caracas.

The countries have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010. The U.S. nevertheless maintains deep economic ties with Venezuela, particularly in its energy sector. Venezuela was one of the top five suppliers of foreign oil to the U.S., according to a 2013 State Department fact sheet.

Cabello has been lashing out at reports that U.S. prosecutors are investigating him for possible ties to cocaine trafficking and money laundering. He has emphatically denied that he heads a drug cartel composed of senior government and military officials and has promised to sue the local and international outlets that have published reports related to the investigation.

Shannon and other U.S. diplomats have been making trips to Caracas since April for low-profile meetings with top Venezuelan officials.

Venezuelan officials have suggested that the rollback of this year's U.S. sanctions would have to be part of any deal to restore relations.

The U.S. has repeatedly called on Venezuela to free a group of imprisoned opposition leaders considered political prisoners by human rights groups, the highest-profile of whom is Leopoldo Lopez, a former mayor jailed for his involvement with 2014's anti-government street protests.

On Tuesday, a group of opposition senators from Brazil who planned to visit some of the prisoners Thursday said Venezuela had refused to issue a landing permit for their government plane. The politicians said they would consider booking a commercial flight.

Such visits have become largely symbolic since Venezuela generally blocks international visitors from seeing the prisoners.


Associated Press writers Adriana Gomez Licon in Rio de Janeiro and Luis Alonso Lugo in Washington contributed to this report.


Hannah Dreier on Twitter: https://twitter.com/hannahdreier

PHOTO: Lilian Tintori, wife of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez makes her way through a line of police guarding the National Electoral Council headquarters in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, June 16, 2015. Tintori went to the National Electoral Council headquarters to present a petition where she and her supporters are demanding that the Council set a date for parliamentary elections in Venezuela. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Lilian Tintori, wife of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez makes her way through a line of police guarding the National Electoral Council headquarters in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, June 16, 2015. Tintori went to the National Electoral Council headquarters to present a petition where she and her supporters are demanding that the Council set a date for parliamentary elections in Venezuela. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Think your friends should see this? Share it with them!

Story copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Feedback, Corrections and Other Requests: AP welcomes feedback and comments from readers. Send an email to info@ap.org and it will be forwarded to the appropriate editor or reporter.


Photo Gallery:
PHOTO: Lilian Tintori, wife of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez tries to make her way through a line of police guarding the National Electoral Council headquarters in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, June 16, 2015. Tintori went to the National Electoral Council headquarter to present a petition where she and her supporters are demanding that the Council set a date for parliamentary elections in Venezuela. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Click to view (3 Photos)
We also have more stories about:
(click the phrases to see a list)

Category:

Follow The Republic:

All content copyright ©2015 The Republic, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.
All rights reserved. Privacy policy.