LATIN AMERICA

US and Venezuela agree to “move forward” to fix soured bilateral ties

Secretary of State Kerry speaks with Foreign Minister Jaua at OAS summit

US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) shakes hands with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua on Wednesday in Guatemala.
US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) shakes hands with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua on Wednesday in Guatemala.JOHAN ORDóñEZ / AFP

After months of tension between Caracas and Washington, US Secretary of State John Kerry met with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elías Jaua on Wednesday at the OAS Summit in the Guatemalan city of Antigua.

It was the first meeting between a US secretary of state and a Venezuelan foreign minister in eight years. It also comes just two months after Nicolás Maduro was sworn in after the controversial April 14 elections.

“First of all, I want to thank the Foreign Minister and I want to thank President Maduro for taking the step to meet here on the sidelines of this conference,” Kerry said at a news conference afterward. The pair met for about 40 minutes.

Kerry said that they both agreed they want to “see our countries find a new way forward, and establish a more constructive and positive relationship.”

“We agreed today that there will be an ongoing, continuing dialogue at a high level between the State Department and the Foreign Ministry, that we will try to set out an agenda by which we agree on things we can work on together, begin to change the dialogue between our countries, and hopefully, quickly move to the appointment of ambassadors between our nations and ultimately to a series of steps that will indicate to the people of both countries, as well as to the region, that we’re finding a way forward to a more constructive and understandable relationship,” the secretary of state said.

The meeting took place during Kerry’s first visit to Central America since being appointed secretary of state this year, and two months after tensions between Caracas and Washington heightened when the Venezuelan opposition charged voting irregularities and demanded a recount of the presidential vote. The United States has not publicly recognized Maduro’s victory but has supported the opposition’s demands for a vote audit, which has angered the Maduro government.

In announcing that the meeting would take place, Maduro told Venezuelans in a nationwide address that the encounter will be “an interesting one.”

“We can set aside our differences but there has to be respect in political terms and in diplomatic terms,” Maduro said.

Since Chávez’s death on June 5, Maduro and other government officials accused the CIA and Israel of causing the late president’s cancer and promised to offer proof to back up their allegations, which they never did. Later, two US embassy officials were deported after they were accused by the Maduro government of taking part in the conspiracy.