Photo: Nicolas Maduro
Venezuela has no need of international mediators to resolve the tensions that have sparked weeks of protests blamed for 19 deaths, President Nicolas Maduro said in an interview broadcast Friday by CNN.
“I think that (what) we need is cooperation. Cooperation. Venezuelans have a long history. So we are able to listen to each other, to talk to each other,” the leftist head of state told CNN’s Christine Amanpour.
Noting that both Maduro and the man he defeated in last April’s presidential election, Henrique Capriles, are Roman Catholics, and that both men have met with Pope Francis, Amanpour suggested the first Latin American pontiff might mediate between the government and opposition in Venezuela.
“Well, I have very good relations with Pope Francis. I read constantly what he says and follow his speeches,” Maduro replied, though adding: “Now, Venezuela does not need mediation.”
He said the violence, which has claimed victims on both sides of the political divide, is being orchestrated by a minority of the opposition.
“(M)ajority of the opposition is part of ... the democratic group, and through electoral means they have tried to change the government,” the president said, pointing out that government opponents hold governorships, mayor’s offices and 40 percent of the seats in the National Assembly.
“(T)hose who have started this violence plan is a minority, is a tiny group belonging to the opposition, and they are putting the rest of the opposition in a dire situation,” Maduro said.
Ties between Caracas and Washington soured during the 1999-2013 presidency of the late Hugo Chavez, a vehement critic of U.S. foreign policy who was Maduro’s mentor and predecessor.
Diplomatic relations have remained at the level of charge d’affaires since late 2010, when Caracas rejected the proposed U.S. ambassador and Washington retaliated by expelling the Venezuelan envoy.
Another round of tit-for-tat expulsions occurred last month after the Maduro government booted three U.S. consular officials it accused of organizing and funding anti-government demonstrations.
In her interview, Amanpour asked Maduro whether he truly believes there are elements in the United States who want to “re-conquer” Latin America.
“Of course I do,” he responded. “They want the economic control - they have political control through political elites - they want military control. The U.S. elite have a project - to have hegemony and control.”
Amanpour went on to ask whether Maduro had a message for the U.S. government.
“My message is respect. Dialogue. That we overcome the visions they have of our country. I made a decision to appoint a new ambassador, a man that I trust, a great diplomat who knows the world and the U.S. He knows many sectors with the U.S. I will be certain he will be very helpful in establishing new relations,” Maduro said.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry agreed during a July 2013 meeting in Guatemala to work toward the restoration of ambassadorial-level diplomatic ties.
But that project collapsed the following month after Maduro’s government took umbrage at comments made by the then-prospective U.S. representative to the United Nations, Samantha Power, during her Senate confirmation hearing.
Power told senators she would contest “the crackdown on civil society being carried out in countries like Cuba, Iran, Russia, and Venezuela.”
Despite the frictions, Venezuela - sitting on the world’s largest reserves of crude - remains a key U.S. oil supplier and significant trading partner.