U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made the unexpected move yesterday of agreeing to a direct, bilateral dialogue with Venezuela in order to reestablish full diplomatic relations. Kerry met with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez during a gathering of the OAS General Assembly, that has been taking place in the Dominican Republic this week, to discuss how to forge a less confrontational relationship between the two countries in the future. The State Department said in a statement released yesterday that the meeting is intended to be the beginning of a process for “establishing a positive path forward in the bilateral relationship.” Striking an unlikely image, the pair were pictured shaking hands in front of their respective countries’ flags at the Chancellery building in Santo Domingo, the Caribbean nation’s capital city. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro welcomed the offer of relations based on mutual respect and responded by calling for an exchange of ambassadors. Kerry has appointed veteran ambassador Thomas Shannon to oversee the dialogue and develop a diplomatic strategy going forward.
Perhaps most surprisingly of all, Kerry also distanced the United States from attempts by the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, to invoke the OAS’s Inter-American Democratic Charter against Maduro’s government. He stated: “At this moment, I think it’s more constructive to have dialogue than to isolate.” Such sentiments come at a time of growing confrontation between the interventionist course pursued by Almagro and the insistence on national sovereignty by the Maduro administration. Kerry’s remarks represent the United States’ increasing acknowledgement of the rejection of Almagro’s stance by the region’s leaders and reflect a dampening of support for his aggressive posturing. Earlier this month an OAS meeting to discuss the possibility of invoking the Charter against Venezuela led to a unanimous declaration denouncing intervention and a rejection of applying the Charter from all but one of the countries’ representative in attendance.