U.S., Venezuelan officials meet in Haiti, continue quiet diplomacy

CARACAS - A U.S. envoy has met Venezuela's second most powerful official in Haiti in a further sign of rapprochement between the ideological foes, according to Venezuelan state media.

U.S., Venezuelan officials, Haiti
Ambassador Thomas Shannon, counselor of the U.S. State Department, testifies on U.S.-Cuba relations before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington May 20. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

CARACAS  - A U.S. envoy has met  Venezuela 's second most powerful official in  Haiti  in a further sign of rapprochement between the ideological foes, according to Venezuelan state media.

Thomas Shannon , counselor to Secretary of State  John Kerry , has emerged in recent months as a go-between for  Caracas  and Washington, visiting  Venezuela  a couple of times for low-profile meetings with President  Nicolas Maduro .

In the worst flare-up since Maduro came to power,  Venezuela  earlier this year accused Washington of plotting a coup, ordered it to reduce its embassy staff and imposed a visa requirement on U.S. visitors.

In turn, the  United States  declared  Venezuela  a national security threat and ordered sanctions against seven officials it accused of corruption and rights abuses.

But both sides have lowered the tone in recent weeks.


In the meeting on Saturday in  Haiti , Shannon met  National Assembly  President  Diosdado Cabello , widely regarded as the No. 2 in  Venezuela  after Maduro, and Foreign Minister  Delcy Rodriguez .

The meeting lasted an hour and a half, according to state news agency AVN, and was mediated by Haitian President  Michel Martelly .

"We held a working meeting in  Haiti  with  Tom Shannon  and the U.S. delegation en route to normalizing relations," Rodriguez tweeted.

State-funded network Telesur quoted Cabello as saying that  Venezuela  and the  United States  both planned to cooperate with  Haiti  in fighting cholera.

Venezuela  wants better relations with the  United States  but unnamed "interests" are blocking that, he added.

"They have tried to attack and bomb this initiative in order to keep us from normalizing relations between the two countries," Telesur quoted him as saying.

There was no further comment from U.S. officials.

The meeting came after reports in U.S. media that Washington is investigating Cabello over involvement in drug trafficking and money laundering, allegations he denies.


The 52-year-old's visit to  Haiti  came on the heels of a surprise trip to  Brazil  in which he met with President  Dilma Rousseff  as well as her predecessor, Lula.

Relations between the  United States  and  Venezuela  have been fiery since Maduro's predecessor  Hugo Chavez  became president of the OPEC nation in 1999.

But oil shipments between them have never been under threat, and rhetoric has often surpassed reality.

Venezuela  remains the fourth biggest crude provider to the  United States , and the order to cut 80 percent of staff from the  U.S. embassy  in March has not been enforced.

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