U.S. engages with Venezuela while supporting recall referendum
Top diplomat meets with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro
Ambassador Thomas Shannon said U.S. continues to support recall referendum
Venezuela raises its concerns with the United States
BY FRANCO ORDOÑEZ
The reopening of diplomatic talks with Venezuela won't clash with the
Obama administration's support of a recall referendum that could end
President Nicolás Maduro's term, a top U.S. diplomat says.
Thomas Shannon, the U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs,
described Wednesday's talks with Maduro as a first step toward finding
common ground with the Venezuelan government. But the former ambassador
to Brazil emphasized that the administration would not back off its
pledge to back an Organization of American States review into the
erosion of democratic institutions in Venezuela.
"The dialog does not replace other political channels of activity,"
Shannon told reporters Friday. "It doesn't replace the recall
referendum. It didn't replace [OAS's] Secretary-General [Luis] Almagro's
invocation of Article 20. These are separate tracks that run along
separate lines that are not mutually exclusive."
Maduro offered no concessions, such as toning down his rhetoric against
the United States. But Shannon said it was significant to see the United
States and Venezuelan flags flown together outside the Miraflores
presidential palace, where Shannon and Maduro were meeting.
"I think that was a clear indication that they recognized there was
importance in showing the visit was taking place as a formal diplomatic
engagement," Shannon said.
After the two-hour meeting, Maduro addressed cheering supporters outside
the palace. Maduro said the two sides agreed to put together an "agenda
"Its not easy because of the difference that we have long had," Maduro said.
Shannon also met and offered support to former Spanish Prime Minister
José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who along with the Dominican President
Leonel Fernández, and the former Panamanian President Martín Torrijos,
are mediating talks between the government and the opposition.
Triggered by the plummeting price of oil, turmoil in Venezuela has only
increased with rising violence and shortage of food and medicine. This
month, riots broke out across the country as desperate Venezuelans
ransacked grocery stores in search of food.
Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have signed a petition calling for
a referendum that could end Maduro's term.
On Thursday, Almagro pressed the 34 members of the OAS to consider
taking action against Venezuela for failing to adhere to the
organization's requirements for a democratic government. He called for
the country to release political prisoners, address alarming violence
rates and agree to the recall referendum before the end of the year.
Venezuela lobbied to block the OAS debate, but it continued after 20
nations voted Thursday to hear Almagro's recap of a 132-page report on
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez called the effort a coup
d'etat, and both she and Maduro raised concerns that the United States
openly supported the process.
The two sides have not scheduled their next meeting. Shannon said the
meeting will likely depend on how the OAS proceeds with its investigation.
"They're uncomfortable with the whole process," Shannon said. "They
don't like being called out, quite frankly."
Email: email@example.com; Twitter: @francoordonez.
Source: US engages in dialog with Venezuala while supporting recall
referendum | In Cuba Today -