Envoy says Venezuela open to better ties with U.S.

Sun Jan 20, 2013 2:25am EST
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By Daniel Wallis

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's government is open to improving troubled ties with Washington and is considering a U.S. proposal for the return of anti-drug agents kicked out of the country eight years ago by President Hugo Chavez, a senior official said.

There has been no word from Chavez since he had cancer surgery in Cuba five weeks ago, so every move the government makes in his absence is being picked over for clues to what the OPEC nation might look like in a post-Chavez era.

Speaking to Telesur, a TV network set up by Chavez to counter Western media influence, Venezuela's ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), Roy Chaderton, said U.S.-Venezuela relations were "not hot, not cold. Zero degrees".

But he said there were efforts to find common ground.

"There are things that are being done with a great deal of seriousness and a lot of caution," he said late on Saturday.

"We are not obliged to have bad ties with governments which have different visions to ours ... I hope pragmatism prevails in this initiative and we reach a fair place of mutual interest."

Officials say Chavez's condition is improving but delicate after the 58-year-old suffered complications from his surgery in Havana on December 11, his fourth operation in just 18 months.

Many Venezuelans suspect, however, that the socialist's 14 years in power - during which his fiery criticism of the United States helped turn him into one of the world's most recognizable and polarizing leaders - may be coming to an end.   Continued...