US, Venezuela in 'positive' talks in Haiti
WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro (L) gestures after being sworn into office by president of the National Assembly Diosdado Cabello (R) in Caracas April 19, 2013. Reuters PhotoThe United States and Venezuela, which have had highly strained relations for more than a decade, held a "positive" diplomatic meeting over the weekend in Haiti, the State Department said June 15.
National Assembly speaker Diosdado Cabello, regarded as Venezuela's second most powerful man, and US State Department Counselor Thomas Shannon met June 13 in Port-au-Prince.
"The talks touched all elements of our bilateral relationship. They were positive and productive," said Jeffrey Rathke, a State Department spokesman.
Cabello himself said after the meeting that it was "an important step toward full restoration of relations between the countries."
Tensions have run particularly high between the United States and Venezuela since US President Barack Obama slapped sanctions in March on seven Venezuelan officials linked to human rights abuses.
Last month, The Wall Street Journal reported that Cabello was one of several senior Venezuelan officials being investigated by US prosecutors over alleged involvement in large-scale cocaine trafficking.
Maduro responded that "anyone who messes with Diosdado messes with me."
The United States is trying to lock in progress on its improved ties to Cuba, Venezuela's closest ally in the region. Cuba is the only Communist-ruled state in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed in December to seek full diplomatic relations, and the two leaders held groundbreaking talks on the sidelines of an April summit in Panama.
The White House sees better relations with Cuba as correcting an out-of-date policy and as a likely signature foreign policy achievement of Obama's presidency.