Handout picture released by the Venezuelan presidential office shows Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (L) talking with US Secretary of State John Kerry (R) during a meeting in Cartegena, Colombia, on September 26, 2016. (Via AFP)
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has met with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Colombia amid tensions in Caracas-Washington relations.
“President @NicolasMaduro held respectful, top level meeting with @JohnKerry,” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez Gomez said on her twitter account.
The brief talks were held on the sidelines of the ceremony for the formal signing of a historic peace deal between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group in the Caribbean city of Cartagena on Monday.
Commenting on the meeting, US State Department Spokesman John Kirby said Kerry “spoke of our concern about the economic and political challenges that have affected millions of Venezuelans, and he urged President Maduro to work constructively with opposition leaders to address these challenges.”
The spokesman further said the two sides also agreed to continue bilateral talks.
Handout picture released by the Colombian presidential office shows Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos (R) shaking hands with US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) as Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro looks on during a meeting in Cartagena, Colombia, September 26, 2016. (Via AFP)
Last April, Maduro also held a brief meeting with US President Barack Obama at a regional summit, where the pair discussed bilateral relations.
Caracas’ relations with Washington have been tense for years over the US support for attempts to topple the government in Venezuela, which is struggling under an economy severely hit by low oil prices and inflation.
They do not have ambassadors in place following expulsions several years ago.
In March, Obama renewed Washington’s sanctions against Caracas, saying the situation in Venezuela was an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”
Venezuela has condemned such American measures as a sign of Washington’s perpetual hostility towards the Latin American nation.
Since 2014, Venezuela has also witnessed protests against Maduro who is under fire by critics for his handling of the economy.
The opposition blames Maduro’s Socialist government for the triple-digit inflation as well as shortages of food, medicine and basic goods that have triggered violence and looting.
The president, however, blames the problems on an “economic war” waged by the opposition with a helping hand from Washington aimed at bringing about a coup d’état in the oil-rich country.
Opposition leaders argue that the situation will not improve without a change of government. They have stepped up efforts to mount a recall referendum against Maduro.