After cozying up to Cuba, is “normalizing” relations with the Venezuelan regime next up for the Obama administration?
Reuters reported yesterday that the administration has embarked on “quiet diplomacy” with Caracas in “an attempt to improve their acrimonious relations,” with President Nicolas Maduro reaching out three months after President Obama announced his Cuba plans.
“Look, communication with other countries is – it’s a hallmark of diplomatic efforts. As a key component of our conversation with Venezuela, whether it be the government or political opposition or others, we’ve underscored the importance of dialogue and respect for democratic institutions and elections and our commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms,” State Department press secretary John Kirby told reporters today. “We – and we maintain diplomatic relations with Venezuela. There’s embassies in both countries, and we have strong ties between our two people.”
Ambassador Thomas Shannon, counselor to Secretary of State John Kerry, was invited by Maduro to Caracas in early April, Kirby said.
“They met on April 8th – not behind closed doors. There’s no – there’s nothing secretive here. And following the Summit of the Americas, Ambassador Shannon was invited again to Caracas for another conversation on May 12th. The conversations were positive and productive, and they will continue,” he said. “In June when Ambassador Shannon was in Haiti, President Martelly of Haiti invited representatives of the United States and Venezuela to Port-au-Prince to discuss support for Haiti’s elections and reconstruction and development there. Those talks were productive with President Martelly identifying areas where both countries could deepen engagement with Haiti in coordination with ongoing international efforts.”
“So the delegations – the U.S. and Venezuelan delegations – took advantage of that opportunity to continue bilateral talks. And as in previous meetings in Caracas, that delegation, again, was led by Ambassador Shannon.”
But when Kerry issued a statement today marking Venezuela’s independence day on July 5, he made no mention of the lack of independence suffered by citizens there.
“Today we reflect on the strong ties of friendship, family, culture, sport, and commerce that bind us together. Our mutual love for baseball has produced some of the greats, from Luis Aparicio to Miguel Cabrera. Gabriela Montero’s music making and Carolina Herrera’s exquisite designs are revered both in the United States and Venezuela, and around the world,” Kerry said. “Francisco de Miranda and America’s Founding Fathers shared ideals and a common spirit that paved the way for the American Revolution and independence in Latin America. Our nations were built on the same ideals of freedom, equality, justice, and democracy.”
“…As you look toward legislative elections, political dialogue will be important in ensuring peaceful resolution of disputes and the integrity of your democratic process. I look forward to further cooperation between our people and governments as we seek ways to improve a historically strong relationship that has endured for nearly two centuries.”