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  HOME | Venezuela (Click here for more Venezuela news)

Head of U.S. Embassy Meets with Venezuela Foreign Minister Over Supposed "Puerto Rico Pact"

CARACAS -- The charge d'affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas met here Thursday with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro to discuss bilateral relations, the American mission said.

John Caulfield appreciated "the opportunity to hold this frank and cordial discussion," the U.S. Embassy said in a statement, while the Venezuelan Foreign Minister has yet to comment.

The talks came a day after the charge d'affaires denied accusations that he recently traveled to Puerto Rico to plot with opponents of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

In Thursday's meeting, the U.S. diplomat reiterated his desire that there will be "more dialogue and greater cooperation between the two countries with the inauguration of a new president of the United States," the statement said.

It also said that Caulfield expressed to Maduro his hope that the meeting "is the beginning of greater communication between both governments with a view to preventing unnecessary misunderstandings and friction."

Caulfield said Wednesday that his trip to Puerto Rico was to attend a wedding and assured reporters that he had notified the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry about his travel plans.

Venezuelan officials "received me in the VIP lounge at the airport, they took me to the door of the plane. They told me 'have a good trip' ... The (Venezuelan) government knows that perfectly well," he told journalists at the U.S. Embassy.

The charge d'affaires said he was taken aback by Chavez's threat last Saturday that he would expel an unnamed U.S. diplomat if it were proven that he participated in a meeting with Venezuelan opposition figures in Puerto Rico.

Chavez claimed that during a meeting at a Puerto Rican hotel the opposition representatives received direction from U.S. officials in how to oppose his campaign for a constitutional amendment eliminating presidential term limits.

Should the amendment become a reality, Chavez, who first took office in 1999, could seek another six-year term in the 2012 election.

Caulfield said Wednesday that the notion of his alleged participation in an opposition "plot" had come about due to tensions between Caracas and Washington.

"When relations are tense ... there's the tendency to imagine the worst hypothesis of any event," the diplomat said.

Last September, Chavez expelled U.S. Ambassador Patrick Duddy in "solidarity" with a similar decision made by Bolivian President Evo Morales.

The U.S. government, in turn, then expelled Venezuela's envoy to Washington, Bernardo Alvarez.

Chavez, whose oil-rich nation is a key supplier of crude to the United States, accuses Washington of complicity with an abortive 2002 coup and views the millions of dollars Venezuelan opposition groups receive from U.S. public entities as interference.

By the same token, U.S. officials denounce Chavez as an autocrat who undermines "stability" in Latin America.

U.S. Embassy Head Denies Plotting With Opposition in Venezuela

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