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Venezuela-U.S. Relations May Improve, Following Meeting of Foreign Ministers

Merida, June 6th 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan foreign minister Elias Jaua and United States Secretary of State John Kerry pledged to improve bilateral relations during a meeting on Wednesday, following the release of a U.S. citizen detained in Venezuela.

Jaua described the meeting as “proactive”, and stated that the discussion with Kerry “marks the beginning of a good respectful relationship”.

“We agreed today — both of us, Venezuela and the United States — that we would like to see our countries find a new way forward, establish a more constructive and positive relationship and find the ways to do that,” Kerry said following the meeting, according to the Associated Press.

Kerry stated that during the 40-minute discussion in Antigua, Guatemala, the two representatives agreed to work towards establishing “continuing dialogue at a high-level between the State Department and the foreign ministry”, and expressed hope that ambassadors could be exchanged “quickly”.

In an interview with Telesur following the talks, Jaua stated that the Venezuelan government is pursuing improved bilateral ties with the U.S., “based on the premise of mutual respect, non-interference in internal affairs and the proper treatment of disagreements”.

“If this is respected then we can move forward in relations with U.S.,” Jaua added.

The talks took place as an aside during the 43rd General Assembly of the Organisation of American States (O.A.S.); it was the first high profile meeting between the two governments since 2009. Currently, neither country hosts ambassadors from the other in their capitals.

This year's meeting of the 35 member states of the O.A.S. was focused on regional counter-narcotics efforts.

Last month, an O.A.S.-commissioned report was released, which recommends member states discuss cannabis legalisation, a proposition that Kerry opposed in his address to the assembly.

U.S. Yet to Recognise 14 April Election Results

Although Kerry made no references to U.S. relations with Venezuela during his address, he did state that some nations in the region are not sufficiently monitoring human rights and democratic values.

However, during a U.S. Senate committee hearing 18 April, Kerry proposed an increase in U.S. State Department funding for “political efforts to protect democratic space” in Venezuela in 2014, and called for more U.S. involvement in Latin American affairs; referring to the continent as “our backyard”.

The State Department is also yet to recognise Maduro's victory in Venezuela's presidential elections on 14 April. On Monday, during a visit to Washington, opposition legislator María Corina Machado urged the U.S. Congress to reject the results of the presidential election. Speaking to the Washington-based foreign policy think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, she described Maduro's victory as a “death threat” for the O.A.S.

Last week, O.A.S. Secretary General José Miguel Insulza rejected a similar request from the Venezuelan opposition. Machado said she personally felt “terribly insulted” by the decision.

Kerry Calls on O.A.S to “Defend” Human Rights Institutions

Kerry also told the O.A.S., “We are all diminished when we fail to defend the very institutions we created to safeguard the noble ideals [of] peace, democracy, development, liberty, and social justice based on respect for the essential rights of women and men.”

The institutions of the O.A.S. that oversee human rights in the region are Inter-American Court of Human Rights and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights- a position on the panel of the latter organization is currently being contested by a U.S. candidate, who is backed by Kerry.

During last year's O.A.S. meeting, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro criticised the commission when he was foreign minister, stating that it “is bent to the interests of the ... U.S.”.

Last September, the Venezuelan government announced its withdrawal from the American Convention on Human Rights, which establishes human rights norms for O.A.S. members. A number of U.S.-based human rights organisations criticised the move, including Human Rights Watch.

“None of our countries is[sic] perfect, and we continue to draw strength from scrutiny and the opportunity to review our human rights practices,” Kerry stated.

Neither the U.S. or Canada have ratified the convention.

Tracy Deported

The meeting between Jaua and Kerry took place following the release and subsequent expulsion of a U.S. citizen from Venezuela. On Wednesday morning Timothy Tracy was flown to Miami, after being detained by Venezuelan authorities in April for allegedly funnelling money to right-wing opposition groups plotting to destabilise the government, and engaging in espionage.

Friends, family members and Tracy's lawyer William Delahunt have maintained that he travelled to Venezuela with the intent of making a documentary, and is innocent.

Last week, Tracy was transferred to El Rodeo prison, where in 2011 riots resulted in a number of deaths.

According to Delahunt, Tracy was deported because the prosecution lacked evidence, though in a statement on Wednesday Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega stated that while she had requested the charges not be pursued, “there were elements that could incriminate him”.

“Gringo Timothy Hallet Tracy, who was captured spying in our country, has been expelled from national territory,” Venezuelan Interior Minister Rodriguez Torres tweeted following Tracy's deportation.

In an interview with AP, Tracy's sister Tiffany Klaasen stated that her family was in regular contact with her brother during his detention, and that he was treated well.

On Wednesday, Kerry described the release of Tracy as “a very positive development”.

“Everyone is relieved and happy to put this behind us,” Klassen said.

Published on Jun 6th 2013 at 8.50pm