Venezuela Breaks Off Talks With United States

Chris Carlson

Venezuelan officials announced on Wednesday that they are breaking off talks with US diplomats, accusing the United States government of interfering in Venezuela’s internal affairs ahead of next month’s elections.

“This line of communication is now suspended, postponed until the United States gives a clear message about what kind of relationship they want,” announced Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Elías Jaua on Wednesday.

Since late last year, the governments of Venezuela and the United States had been engaging in conversations to reopen diplomatic relations that have been cut off since 2010.

However, since the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez earlier this month, relations have become increasingly strained as Venezuelan officials have accused Washington of meddling in Venezuela’s affairs.

Venezuela has made several accusations since Chavez’s death on March 5th, first claiming that two US embassy officials were talking to members of the country’s armed forces, and later alleging that the US could have caused the cancer that killed former President Hugo Chavez.

Venezuela expelled the two embassy officials and Washington retaliated last week by expelling two Venezuelan officials from the US.

Comments from US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson last week created another stir as she questioned the transparency of Venezuela’s electoral system, and appeared to favor opposition candidate Henrique Capriles.

Venezuela rejected Jacobson’s comments, calling them “interventionist statements”.

“If someday the United States learns to speak to the free people of Venezuela, then we can have normal relations,” said Jaua at a political rally on Wednesday.

“Mrs. Jacobson, when you learn that we are a sovereign country, then give us a call,” he said.

Venezuelan officials have also made accusations in recent days that the US government is plotting to assassinate opposition candidate Henrique Capriles in an attempt to “inject violence in Venezuela and then promote foreign intervention like they did in Libya,” according to Interim President Nicolás Maduro.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Elías Jaua claimed to have evidence that former US government officials Roger Noriega and Otto Reich were attempting to recruit mercenaries in Central America to carry out an attack on Capriles.

“Otto Reich and Roger Noriega, with the help of that murderer Posada Carriles, who they protect in the US, are recruiting mercenaries to attack the losing candidate, because they know Capriles is going to lose,” said Jaua.

“How do we know they are doing this? Because we have friends around the world who help us, because they respect us and because Chavez put us in a position of respect and esteem with the people of the world and with the majority of the governments in the world,” he said.

Washington has denied the charges, calling them “disappointing” and says they are still interested in building a “productive relationship” with Venezuela.

“We categorically reject the allegations that the US government is involved in a plot to destabilize or harm someone in Venezuela,” said a spokesperson for the US State Department.

“We continue to believe that it is important to have a productive relationship. The repeated baseless and extravagant allegations are disappointing,” said the spokesperson.

Otto Reich, former US ambassador to Venezuela, also denied the charges, claiming that they are just “Maduro’s latest lie” and form a part of a “cynical strategy to distract Venezuela from the disaster caused by the 14 years of ‘socialist’ government”.

Venezuelan officials maintain that the US is seeking to create instability and violence in order to discredit the presidential elections in April because they know opposition candidate Henrique Capriles will not be able to win.

“The United States thinks their moment has arrived to get their hands on Venezuela because Chavez is no longer here,” said Jaua.

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