Caracas, April 9th 2015 (venezuelanalysis.com) - A senior U.S. diplomat touched down in Caracas on Wednesday where he met with Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, ahead of the Organization of American State’s (OAS) 7th Summit of the Americas this Friday in Panama.
State Department Counsellor, Thomas A. Shannon, flew to Venezuela on Tuesday on behalf of Secretary of State, John Kerry, at the invitation of Caracas. Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Delcy Rodriguez, was also present.
The diplomatic meeting follows a period of heightened tensions between the two countries following the release of an Executive Order signed by the Obama administration in March which labels the socialist South American country a “national security threat” and slaps several Venezuelan officials with a third round of sanctions.
Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, stated that he hoped the meeting would lead to a new era of relations with the U.S.
“I told him, with all due respect, I hope that what I am going to say here in this meeting, with the best Bolivarian commitment, is going to be received where it needs to be received and that the doors are opened to a new stage in our relationship, based on respect, respect for the dignity and sovereignty of Venezuela,” stated Maduro on Thursday.
Washington’s latest round of actions has seen countries across the region unanimously rally in support of Venezuela, as well as over ten million Venezuelans sign a petition urging the U.S. president to revoke the order. Both China and Russia have also sent messages of support to Caracas.
The reaction has witnessed Washington tone down its rhetoric in relation to Venezuela and on Tuesday this week, Benjamin J. Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, stated that “The United States does not believe that Venezuela poses some threat to our national security,” in what seemed to be a contradiction of the language used in March’s Executive Order.
Nevertheless, the issue is expected to be a significant point of contention throughout the upcoming summit, which will be attended by both President Nicolas Maduro and Barack Obama.
While there was little detailed information available surrounding the content of Wednesday’s meeting and its outcome, an official statement from the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry confirmed that Shannon had brought a direct “message” from the White House, while Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Delcy Rodriguez, had reiterated the Venezuelan government’s request for the Obama administration to revoke its Executive Order.
The Venezuelan President also confirmed that he had discussed the need to address the “legal situation of the terrorists and corrupt people that are living in Miami” with Shannon, as well as the necessity of regulating the “functioning” of the countries’ respective embassies according to “international law and the Vienna Convention”.
U.S. to have more “active presence” in Venezuela
Following his meeting with government representatives on Wednesday, Shannon convened with members of the Venezuelan opposition coalition the “Roundtable of Democratic Unity” (MUD) at the U.S. embassy headquarters before flying back to Washington on Thursday.
The MUD has confirmed that the purpose of the meeting was to talk to Shannon about “the release of political prisoners,” Venezuela’s human rights situation and the country’s upcoming legislative elections.
“Following the summit (of the Americas), there will be a more active U.S. presence along with UNASUR foreign ministers and other actors, with a view to bringing about an electoral and peaceful way out of the Venezuelan crisis,” stated MUD secretary, Jesus Torrealba, who added that Shannon had confirmed that Washington would be “more emphatic” about addressing alleged “human rights abuses” in Venezuela following this week’s summit.
According to the secretary, Washington is currently concerned that “a critical situation in Venezuela would not just affect Venezuelans, but that it would have an impact on the whole region”. The MUD also handed over an “updated human rights report” to Shannon before the closed meeting came to an end by 11am.
In further comments to press surrounding current U.S.-Venezuela relations, Torrealba stated that the opposition coalition “totally” support U.S. sanctions against individuals in Venezuela, but not against “the country as a whole”.
He officially requested the presence of the OAS, the United Nations and the European Parliament at Venezuela’s upcoming legislative elections.
Frosty Media Reaction
Despite his warm welcome from the Venezuelan opposition, U.S. diplomat Shannon was greeted with a cool reception by the country’s alternative media, which were reticent about the envoy’s speckled diplomatic history.
Over the past few days, various articles have been circulating on the internet noting the diplomat’s links to Latin American and Caribbean countries which have experienced U.S. backed coups during the last fifteen years.
According to reports and Wikileak cables, Shannon was present in Honduras in the months following the coup which ousted Manuel Zelaya in 2009, and played an extensive role in US- Haiti relations following the second ousting of elected leftist president, Jean Bertrand Aristide in 2004.
The diplomat worked at the U.S. embassy in Caracas for three years between 1996-1999.