In wake of the country’s economic downfall, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has called for Venezuelan leaders to respect their people’s freedom of expression, release political prisoners from jail, and alleviate the widespread food shortages experienced nationwide.
At a meeting this week for the Organization of American States (OAS) in the Dominican Republic, Kerry urged Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to honor the constitutional rights of his people. He cited disturbing reports of people dying while waiting in interminable lines for food and medical care.
But Kerry’s comments did not go over well for Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez, who said Kerry was bullying her country.
ABC News reports that Rodriguez commented, “I feel the ruler of the world has spoken, and who on top of it all has the audacity to voice his opinion on other countries”.
Rodriguez and Kerry met privately for about half an hour, a meeting Kerry described as congenial and respectful. Both agreed to open dialogue between the two countries.
Additionally, Kerry expressed that the United States does not support the suspension of Venezuela from the Organization of American States. This was an idea put forth by OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, who believes Maduro’s government does not abide by the group’s Democratic Charter.
Instead, Kerry believes mediation between the two countries is the best way to come to a solution. He plans to dispatch Thomas A. Shannon Jr., the undersecretary for political affairs, to Caracas immediately for talks.
Kerry’s calming words seemed to tone down the fiery tensions in the OAS General Assembly for the time being.
Venezuela is a country that is spiraling towards chaos. Their low oil prices, socialist domestic programs, and controversial political rule have hindered the country from importing goods causing the extreme shortage of food and other medical necessities. Women are even prohibited from blow-drying their hair due to the severe electrical blackouts.
Comparatively, Venezuela’s neighbor Colombia is one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America. In 2013, they produced an estimated $378 billion U.S. dollars in gross domestic product, becoming the third largest economy in the region and growing at a rate of 4 to 6% per year.