DEA back to Venezuela?
In the first sign of a thaw in relations between the US and Venezuela, the Caracas government is weighing a request from Washington to allow a high-level DEA official to visit the South American country. Venezuela's ambassador to the Organization of American States, Roy Chaderton, told the Associated Press Jan. 18: "We are open to improving relations with the United States, but we are not seeking in this overture a good conduct certification on the part of the government or congress of the United States." The US has for the past four years "blacklisted" Venezuela for its alleged failure to take measures against drug trafficking. Chaderton and US deputy assistant secretary of state Kevin Whittaker met in late 2012 in an effort to improve relations between their countries. (AP via Fox News Latino, Jan. 19; Informe, Zulia, Globovision, Caracas, Jan. 18)
The announcement comes amid tension in Venezuela over the health of President Hugo Chávez, who has not been seen or heard from since his fourth operation for cancer last month in Havana, Cuba. Chávez, recently re-elected, was inaugurated in absentia Jan. 10, following a ruling by Venezuela's supreme court finding this constitutional. Vice President Nicolas Maduro oversaw the public ceremony, and called on the gathered masses to take an oath of "absolute loyalty to the leadership of Comandante Hugo Chávez." (CNN, Jan. 11)
But Human Rights Watch issued a statement calling on Veneziela's government to "end censorship and intimidation of media that challenge the official line regarding President Hugo Chávez’s health and inauguration." On Jan. 9, the government telecommunications agency, CONATEL, ordered TV station Globovisión to halt transmission of a series of four spots criticizing the government's position on whether the inauguration could go ahead without the president's presence. The order also barred the station from broadcasting "any similar video." (HRW, Jan. 12)