Apparently offended by a statement made by Samantha Powers, the UN ambassador-designate from the US, Venezuela will no longer talk with the US about restoring normal relations.
During recent confirmation hearings before the US Senate, Ms. Powers said that Venezuela is guilty of a “crackdown on civil society,” comparing it to other oppressive governments such as Cuba, Iran and Russia, criticizing the country’s human rights record.
A statement from Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry said the country felt compelled to halt discussions because of her remarks.
Before Venezuela’s refusal to talk further to the US, diplomatic discussions were being held in Guatemala between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua.
The talks were expected to lead to an exchange of ambassadors between the US and Venezuela and a resumption of diplomatic relations which ended in 2010.
But the discussions were clouded recently when US citizen Edward Snowden, who leaked classified information while employed by the NSA, was promised political asylum by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
Venezuela is currently chair of Mercosur, the “common market of the south,” a group of five South American nations including Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Bolivia is an “access member,” granted somewhat limited benefits of membership.
Associate Mercosur members include Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru and Suriname.
Like the EU Common Market, Inter-Mercosur trade is conducted duty-free, and imposes a common external tariff of zero to 20 percent. Members work together on commercial and trade issues, import and export issues, customs, technical standards, taxes, and monetary policy.
Mercosur also researches, studies and formulates policy on agriculture, energy, macroeconomics, labor, employment and social security issues.
In recent years South America has become an increasingly important market for American goods including apparel and textiles, and could also become an alternative source of manufacturing for US brands and retailers.