Diplomat: U.S. Seeks ‘Pragmatic Relationship’ with Venezuela

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US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roberta S. Jacobson -- the most senior American official in Havana since 1980 -- speaks during a press conference in Havana on January 23, 2015. The United States and Cuba held two days of historic talks in Havana to end decades of Cold War-era animosity and reestablish diplomatic relations. The meetings in Havana follow the historic decision by US President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro in December to seek normal diplomatic relations. AFP PHOTO / ADALBERTO ROQUE CUBA-US-DIPLOMACY-JACOBSON

The United States is seeking a “pragmatic relationship” with Venezuela, despite their governments’ differences, the top U.S. diplomat for Latin America said Wednesday.

“We are continuing discussions. Although we have differences, we are trying to have a pragmatic relationship with Venezuela,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson.

The U.S. and Venezuela have not had ambassadors in their respective capitals since 2010, and their relationship deteriorated further after the White House adopted sanctions against some Venezuelan officials in March and said the country was a threat to U.S. security.

But a phone conversation Tuesday between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez raised hopes that relations between the countries may begin to improve.

The ministers “discussed issues such as the border situation (between Venezuela and Colombia) and our concern for the humanitarian situation,” Jacobson said Wednesday, speaking to a Latin American Development Bank (CAF) conference in Washington.

She said the two diplomats also discussed the situation surrounding Leopoldo Lopez, the Venezuelan opposition leader who has been detained since February 2014 on charges of promoting violence in street demonstrations.

A State Department spokesman told AFP that Kerry and Rodriguez also “discussed the importance of keeping channels of communication open between the United States and Venezuela” and that Kerry spoke of “the need for a quick resolution of the (border) dispute, in view of the humanitarian situation.”

On August 19 Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro closed part of the border with Colombia and ordered the expulsion of some 1,500 Colombians living in Venezuela. Another 18,500 have fled, the United Nations said Tuesday.

Also on Tuesday, Venezuela announced the deployment of 3,000 military personnel to the border and the closure of another border crossing.

South American foreign ministries have been trying to mediate the crisis.

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