Over the last year, relations between the United States and Venezuela have reportedly been rocky and filled with growing tensions. While these tensions continue to escalate, Venezuelan leaders are calling for improved relations.
On New Year’s Day, Vice President Joe Biden met with President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela in Brazil, according to The New York Times.
Both men expressed a desire to restore ties. However, over the last week, new visa restrictions by the U.S. seemed to once again increase tensions.
According to Reuters, the State Department released a statement saying, “We are sending a clear message that human rights abusers, those who profit from public corruption, and their families are not welcome in the United States.”
Maduro responded in a speech, saying, “What human rights are they talking about?” He continued, saying, “They kill black youth in the street with impunity, they persecute and have concentration camps of Central American kids. [In Guantanamo], they have abducted dozens of citizens of the world under no known legal system, submitting them to torture [and] isolation.”
The State Department launched the restrictions on Venezuelan officials who have been linked to various human rights violations. Tensions also continued to rise due to the declining economy in Venezuela, according to NBC. The visa restrictions have also been extended to family members of officials already banned.
Previous U.S. sanctions had also targeted those who attempted to suppress anti-government protests, according to the BBC.
The Venezuelan government and Maduro have long believed the U.S. has attempted to sabotage their rule in order to gain control of the country’s oil.
According to Reuters, relations worsened in 2002 when the Bush administration applauded an attempted coup of former President Hugo Chavez’s government. Reuters reported that Venezuela remains one of the top oil suppliers to the United States.
With mounting tensions, Maduro accused Biden of plotting a coup against his regime. Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, said the accusation by the Venezuelan leader was both “baseless and false,” according to Reuters.
In recent days, however, Maduro has once again called for improved relations between the two countries, according to the BBC.
Maduro spoke to supporters in the capital of Caracas before meeting with the Secretary General of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), Ernesto Samper. Maduro then proceeded to ask Samper to mediate relations between Venezuela and the U.S.
Maduro addressed the crowd, asking President Barack Obama to “rectify and stop in time the coup plan [that would see] the destruction of Venezuela.”
To make matters worse, the Venezuelan economy continues to falter, according to NBC News. Retail owners have been accused of contributing to shortages throughout the country and waging an “economic war.” In particular, two of the executives for the country’s largest drug chain were held by authorities as part of an investigation. The U.S blames the strict price and currency controls currently in place.
The U.S. and Venezuela have not had ambassadors in each other’s capitals since 2010, according to the BBC.
Editor’s Note: Information from The New York Times, the BBC and Reuters was used in this report.