Venezuela's Maduro seeks mediation with U.S.

Feb 05, 2015, 2:31 AM EST
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (R) delivers a joint press conference with UNASUR's General Secretary and former Colombian President Ernesto Samper (L) after a meeting at the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas on February 04, 2015.
AFP/Getty Images

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has called for a relationship with the United States based on diplomacy and an end to what he claims is a US plan to destabilise his government. The BBC reports Maduro was speaking to supporters in Caracas before meeting the Secretary General of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), Ernesto Samper. He later asked Mr Samper to mediate between Venezuela and the US.

The US imposed sanctions against Venezuelan officials in December. They were aimed at those allegedly involved in suppressing the anti-government protests that shook Venezuela in the first six months of 2014. On Monday, the US also imposed visa restrictions on unnamed Venezuelan officials it accuses of human rights violations and corruption.

Addressing crowds of supporters in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, Maduro called on the US president to "rectify and stop in time the coup plan (that would see) the destruction of Venezuela. "President Obama, I say this with goodwill: We hope that you set a new and different tone with Venezuela."

Meawhile, Venezuelans who already must line up for hours to buy chicken, sugar, medicines and other basic products in short supply now face a new indignity, writes Bloomberg Business: Condoms are hard to find and nearly impossible to afford.

“The country is so messed up that now we have to wait in line even to have sex,” lamented Jonatan Montilla, a 31-year-old advertising company art director. “This is a new low.”

A collapse in oil prices has deepened shortages of consumer products from diapers to deodorant in the OPEC country that imports most of what it consumes, with crude exports accounting for about 95 percent of its foreign currency earnings.

As the price the country receives for its oil exports fell 60 percent in the past seven months, the economy is being pushed to the brink with a three-in-four chance of default in the next 12 months if oil prices don’t recover.

The impact of reduced access to contraceptives is far graver than frustration over failed hookups. Venezuela has one of South America’s highest rates of HIV infection and teenage pregnancy. Abortion is illegal.

“Without condoms we can’t do anything,” Jhonatan Rodriguez, general director at the not-for-profit health group StopVIH, said by phone Jan. 28 from Venezuela’s Margarita Island. “This shortage threatens all the prevention programs we have been working on across the country.”