CARACAS, Venezuela — The United States said Wednesday it is still open to improving ties with Venezuela after Caracas called off the rapprochement, accusing Washington of meddling in its internal affairs.
The two nations — which were often at odds during the 14-year rule of the recently deceased Hugo Chavez — had hinted at warmer ties after a meeting of top diplomats last month.
But then Venezuela reacted angrily to a statement by Samantha Power — tapped to be the next US ambassador to the United Nations — who vowed to stand up to "repressive regimes" and challenge the "crackdown on civil society being carried out in countries like Cuba, Iran, Russia, and Venezuela."
President Nicolas Maduro — the handpicked successor to the leftist Chavez — then accused Washington of meddling in Venezuela's affairs, condemning its "imperialist attitude."
Washington has yet to recognize Maduro's victory in a disputed April election to replace Chavez.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Wednesday she was not aware of Maduro's comments, and she insisted the United States was still committed to improving ties.
"We obviously have not interjected into any election," she said. "We are open to having a positive relationship with Venezuela moving forward. That's what our focus is on, and we still are leaving the door open for that."
During his 14 years in power Chavez railed against U.S. "imperialism" and cultivated close ties with Cuba, Iran, and Syria.
But despite the fact that Washington and Caracas have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010, oil-rich Venezuela still exports some 900,000 barrels a day to the United States.