Venezuela’s Maduro says U.S. diplomatic channel ‘working well’

CARACAS, July 6 (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Monday that a recently created diplomatic back-channel with the United States is “working very well” at improving communication between the two countries following more than a decade of tensions. Maduro said U.S. President Barack Obama helped pave the way for improved communication in April, after he distanced himself from an executive order that described the South American nation as a threat to the security of the United States. “The president of the United States rejected the decree that he himself signed, and allowed for diplomatic channels to seek respect and understanding,” Maduro said during a speech to parliament. “We have to recognise President Obama’s bravery in saying what he said, in reaching out, and creating a diplomatic channel which, thank God, is working very well.” The dialogue between the two countries seeks to separate areas of disagreement, such as a clamp-down on political opposition, from those of shared interest including peace talks in Colombia and elections in Haiti, a U.S. official familiar with the situation told Reuters last week. Despite the effort, Maduro has continued to accuse the United States of seeking to destabilise his government and weaken the country’s economy. Washington denies the allegations. Tensions simmered in March when Obama signed an executive order that sanctioned Venezuelan officials associated with the crackdown on opposition protests in 2014. The two presidents spoke briefly at a summit in Panama in April, paving the way for meetings between high-level officials of the two governments in recent months. Caracas and Washington have been at loggerheads since the 14-year rule of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez.

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