CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela is seeking to improve diplomatic relations with the United States despite long-standing tensions with Washington, President Hugo Chavez said in an interview broadcast Sunday.
Chavez said he has given Deputy Foreign Minister Francisco Arias Cardenas permission to seek a meeting with U.S. officials in Washington to discuss forging better bilateral relations.
“Arias Cardenas asked for authorization to meet with an emissary from the U.S. government, and I gave it to him,” said Chavez, speaking during a program broadcast on the local Televen television channel. “We want to talk, so there’s a possibility of easing tensions.”
Chavez didn’t explain what prompted his decision to try to improve relations just weeks after he accused the U.S. of planning to invade his country.
Officials at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas could not be reached for comment Sunday. There was no immediate reaction from the U.S. State Department or the White House.
Chavez has accused the United States and Colombia of spying on Venezuela and conspiring to topple his “revolutionary” government. Tensions have been exacerbated by a recent agreement between Washington and Bogota granting U.S. troops expanded access to Colombian military bases.
Last week, Venezuela made a diplomatic protest to the U.S., saying a U.S. military plane recently violated its airspace.
John Caulfield, charge d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, denied the accusation, saying a U.S. military aircraft has not strayed into Venezuelan airspace since 2008, when the U.S. acknowledged what it called an accidental incident involving a navy plane.
Meanwhile, U.S officials have criticized what they call Venezuela’s failure to effectively fight drug trafficking.
But even as he talked peace, Chavez seemed to fan the flames with his neighbor, Colombia, for allowing greater U.S. military presence in the region. The U.S. says its soldiers in Colombia will be used only to help Colombian President Alvaro Uribe fight drug trafficking and rebels.
With “the election of Obama and the Democrats in Congress, Uribe began to fear he’d lose the support that he had from Bush, and he dropped his pants due to the fear of losing the backing of the United States,” Chavez said in the same interview.