US and Colombia discuss “mediation” on Venezuelan crisis

Posted on Feb 28 2014 - 8:43pm by Rico
Secretary of State John Kerry (Photo: AP)

Secretary of State John Kerry assured that the US is working closely with Colombia and other countries in the region in order to bring peaceful end to the Venezuelan crisis, according to the US Department of State on Friday.

Speaking from Washington DC alongside Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin, Kerry expressed the US government’s willingness examine every available option as the Venezuelan crisis continues, adding that both sides in the country need to have an open dialogue “in a peaceful and responsible way.”

“We are working very closely with Colombia and with other countries to try to see how some kind of mediation might be able to take place, because it’s obviously already proven very difficult for the two sides to bring themselves together by themselves,” Kerry said.

When questioned on the matter, the Secretary of State confirmed that congress had discussed imposing sanctions on Venezuela saying that he doesn’t believe it is “inappropriate for Congress or for others to be debating and thinking about those incentives or those measures,” but made no further comments on the matter.

For her part, Minister Holguin refrained from making any further comments on the Venezuelan situations as she had “made those statements before, and I’d respectfully abstain from making any statements right now.”

The crisis in Venezuela, which began two weeks ago with mass protests against the government of Nicolas Maduro, continue as students and journalists clashed with government troops on Friday leaving 17 people dead, El Espectador newspaper reported.

MORE: Santos expresses concern over Venezuela unrest; Maduro not amused

The meeting between Kerry and Holguin also included discussions on the drug-trade, economic ties, and the possibility for the US to waive visas for Colombians traveling to the country.

“We would very much like to be able to grant a visa waiver,” stated Kerry and explained that, although before the elimination of visas could happen a series of criteria have to be met, the US is “absolutely committed to make sure that as soon as possible.”

Colombians will be hoping for the US to follow in the European Union’s footsteps, which granted the country a visa waiver for Schengen countries on Thursday.

MORE: Visas dropped for Colombians to Europe’s Schengen Area

Kerry also signaled a $15 million package to Colombia’s “regions hit hardest by the (civil) conflict,” a program that would be implemented over four years in a bid to improve access to the justice system and help local governments “to combat human rights violations and corruption.”

An additional $7 million would be given by the US to help implement Colombia’s Victims Law, where victims of the country’s 50-year armed conflict are compensated for the crimes committed against them by the rebel, paramilitary, and criminal armed groups.

His remarks come a day after the US Department of State released its annual Human Rights Report criticizing Colombia for an inefficient and corrupt judiciary system, and a failure to protect the basic human rights of its citizens during the ongoing armed conflict.

MORE: US condemns human rights abuses in Colombia

Foreign Minister Holguin thanked the Secretary of State for their continued support during the armed conflict and confirmed that the two countries had signed an agreement to combat human trafficking.


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