Top US diplo­mat to visit

Jamaica Gleaner - - INTERNATIONAL NEWS -

CARA­CAS (AP): PRES­I­DENT NI­CO­LAS Maduro says a top United States State De­part­ment of­fi­cial will soon visit Venezuela in a bid to ease ten­sions be­tween the two na­tions.

Maduro’s an­nounce­ment Tues­day night came a day af­ter he met with Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry on the side­lines of a peace cer­e­mony in Colom­bia.

It would be the sec­ond visit this year by Thomas Shan­non, un­der­sec­re­tary of state for political af­fairs. A trip in June on a sim­i­lar mis­sion that has yet to pro­duce any ap­par­ent break­through.

Maduro said he also in­vited Kerry and that the US of­fi­cial said he would come if the ef­fort at di­a­logue ad­vances. The State De­part­ment de­clined to com­ment on Wed­nes­day morn­ing.

Ear­lier, the State De­part­ment said Kerry in his meet­ing with Maduro ex­pressed con­cern for grow­ing eco­nomic and political ten­sions in Venezuela. The US has been es­pe­cially out­spo­ken about con­cerns that Venezue­lan of­fi­cials are quash­ing a cam­paign to hold a con­sti­tu­tion­ally per­mit­ted re­call vote against Maduro.

Venezuela finds it­self in an in­creas­ingly un­com­fort­able po­si­tion in the re­gion, on the outs with the re­gional blocs it once touted as a coun­ter­weight to US power, and un­der pres­sure to give more space to do­mes­tic op­po­si­tion groups.

RO­TAT­ING PRES­I­DENCY

The South Amer­i­can oil coun­try was to as­sume the ro­tat­ing pres­i­dency of the re­gional trade bloc Mer­co­sur this sum­mer, but that hand-off was put on hold by heads of US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry meets with Venezuela pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro in Carta­gena, Colom­bia, on Mon­day. state who said they were con­cerned about Venezuela’s dis­re­gard for democ­racy at home.

Ear­lier this month, Venezuela hosted a sum­mit of the 120na­tion Non-Aligned Move­ment, but only about 12 heads of state chose to at­tend the meet­ing, far short of the ex­pec­ta­tions Maduro had set.

Maduro said on Tues­day that Shan­non’s visit could usher in a new era of Venezuela-US re­la­tions.

“Can we un­der­stand each other? Yes. Can we set a pos­i­tive agenda? Yes. And that’s what we’re go­ing to do,” he said.

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