On Tuesday, June 14, United States Secretary of State John Kerry sat down with representatives of the Venezuelan government during the meeting of the Organization of American States in the Dominican Republic. Relations between the two countries have been strained since former president Hugo Chavez expelled the United States ambassador eight years ago.
Kerry and the Venezuelan government now headed by Nicolas Maduro agreed to hold direct talks starting immediately. The United States will be represented by veteran diplomat Thomas Shannon. Maduro also proposed exchanging ambassadors.
“There are obstacles” says political analyst Diaz Granados. The Maduro government is locked in a power struggle with the right-wing opposition. The opposition controls the national legislature. Maduro is president and effectively controls the country’s Supreme Court. He has used his power to nullify reform legislation and jail opposition leaders. All this is taking place as Venezuela sinks deeper into a major economic crisis. The global decline in oil prices has left the country unable to buy enough food and other basic goods. Demonstrations and even some violence are daily events.
Although Kerry’s move at the OAS meeting clearly shows the United States wants better relations with Venezuela, “it won’t be easy”, added Danilo Diaz Granados. Kerry indicated he backs an opposition-inspired referendum to recall Maduro. So far, Maduro has blocked the recall effort and refused to release jailed political prisoners.Consequently, it is hard at this point to say how fruitful the talks in Caracas will be.