Tue, May 21, 2013 - Page 7 News List

Venezuela says taking steps to restore US ties

‘MESSAGE’ TO US:The country named an acting head for its diplomatic mission in the US in what it suggested was a prelude to restoring ambassadors

Reuters, CARACAS

Venezuela’s recent designation of an acting head of its diplomatic mission in the US shows the OPEC nation’s desire to restore full diplomatic relations, Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs Elias Jaua said in an interview broadcast on Sunday.

Disputes between Caracas and Washington were common during the 14-year-rule of former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, leaving both nations without ambassadors in each other’s capitals.

Jaua suggested in a televised interview that the move to name government ally Calixto Ortega as charge d’affaires in Washington could be a prelude to restoring ambassadors.

“This is a message for US politicians so they understand Venezuela’s desire to normalize relations ... via the designation of the highest diplomatic authorities,” Jaua said. “Why? Because the United States remains our top trade partner.”

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has in recent months said he wants better ties with Washington, as long as the relationship is respectful. However, he has also accused the US of seeking to destabilize the country.

Last month, he accused the US of “vulgar” meddling after the US Department of State said it had not decided if it would recognize his presidency and supported opposition calls for a vote recount after the April 14 election.

He won that vote, triggered by Chavez’s death, by 1.5 percentage points. The opposition refused to accept the results and is challenging the election in the country’s top court.

In 2008, Chavez expelled then-US ambassador to Venezuela Patrick Duddy from Caracas in a dispute over what the late president called Washington’s involvement in violent protests in Bolivia.

In 2010, he blocked Washington’s nomination of diplomat Larry Palmer as ambassador to protest against Palmer’s comments that there were “clear ties” between members of Chavez’s government and leftist Colombian rebels.

The US Department of State responded by revoking the visa of Venezuela’s ambassador.

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