- POSTED: 22 May 2014 04:54
US Secretary of State John Kerry warned Venezuela that sanctions remain on the table if there is no progress in talks with the opposition to end violent protests.
MEXICO CITY: US Secretary of State John Kerry warned Venezuela on Wednesday that sanctions remain on the table if there is no progress in talks with the opposition to end violent protests.
The opposition, which has called on the government to release anti-government demonstrators, froze the meetings last week after authorities detained more than 200 student protesters.
"We are witnessing an impatience that is growing in the neighbourhood and we consider ourselves to be part of the neighbourhood," Kerry said.
"We have great concern about the instability that is created as a result of what is happening in Venezuela," he said in Mexico City after talks with Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Meade that discussed the crisis in Caracas.
At least 42 people have died and 800 were wounded in protests that began in February over the government's failure to curb runaway crime, tame soaring inflation and resolve shortages of basic foodstuffs.
Kerry pointed to a "total failure" by the Venezuelan government "to demonstrate good-faith actions," such as releasing jailed opposition leaders and protecting protesters' rights.
"Our hope is that sanctions will not be necessary," Kerry said. "But all options remain on the table at this time, with the hopes that we can move the process forward."
On Tuesday, a US Senate panel greenlighted sanctions on Venezuelan officials responsible for violent crackdowns on protests.
Before Kerry's talks with Meade, a senior US State Department official said the two top diplomats would discuss what roles their countries could have to keep alive Venezuela's stalled talks.
The official warned that the Venezuelan government has "days or maybe weeks at the most" to answer to the frustrations of the opposition, or protesters could return to the streets.
"That's the fear," the official added on condition of anonymity.
The US official said Kerry and Meade would talk about the efforts of a Vatican envoy and South American nations that have mediated the talks.
Acknowledging that Washington has little influence on Caracas, the official said the United States and Mexico could work with South American nations to put pressure on Caracas to implement opposition demands "quickly before this really does fall apart."