Washington: US Secretary of State John Kerry has denied that Washington was behind a wave of protests in Venezuela, adding that tensions between the two countries have lasted too long.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has convened talks with social and political actors in an attempt to end three weeks of sometimes deadly anti-government protests in the deeply divided country.
“Regrettably, President Maduro keeps choosing to blame the United States for things we are not doing or for things that they are unhappy about in their own economy and in their own society,” Kerry said.
The Venezuelan president has pushed for a renewal of ties between the two countries, which have not had full ambassadors since 2010, reflecting the bad blood between the trade partners since late president Hugo Chavez came to power in 1999.
“We’re prepared to have a change in this relationship, this tension between our countries has gone on for too long in our view,” Kerry said.
“But we are not going to sit around and be blamed for things we have never done.”
In Caracas, Maduro welcomed Kerry’s reference to better ties.
“I welcome the response by Secretary of State John Kerry (on) improving ties to Venezuela,” Maduro said at crisis talks largely spurned by the opposition.
On Tuesday, the State Department announced the expulsion of three Venezuelan embassy officials, a tit-for-tat move after Caracas kicked out three American diplomats earlier this month.
“We would like to move forward in the relationship. And hopefully Venezuela will begin to deal with its own internal problems and position itself so that we can engage thoughtfully,” Kerry said.
Maduro has sought to deepen the anti-American policies of his charismatic predecessor and mentor.
Chavez, an elected socialist, was briefly ousted in a coup bid that lasted less than two days in 2002. The United States did not back Chavez, the elected leader at the time, and instead supported an unelected interim leader.
That move by the United States seriously damaged US credibility across Latin America for the decade that followed and beyond.