Thomas Shannon, counsellor for the United States Department of State, is currently in Caracas and is expected to meet with Maduro tomorrow. Shannon will also meet with Delcy Rodriguez, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, ahead of the Summit of the Americas which will begin on Friday. Secretary of State John Kerry said that Shannon’s goal was to reach some kind of agreement with Maduro prior to the summit.
Shannon and Maduro last met in 2008. At the time, Maduro was the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Their meeting marked the last time the two governments formally met.
As for expectations for the summit itself, presidential advisor on Latin America Ricardo Zúñiga said that President Obama is ready for any eventualities, including the possibility of being presented with signatures against the sanctions by Maduro himself. Zúñiga said:
The summit should be an occasion to have a civilized exchange amongst leaders. We’re not worried about taking with anyone in attendance; however, we should expect that it will be a proper event, where we will be able to have a discussion in the appropriate manner.
Tintori To Speak at Summit
Lilian Tintori, Leopoldo Lopez’s wife, will speak at the upcoming Summit of the Americas in Panama City later this week. Tintori explained today that she will have the floor at the meeting for approximately four minutes, during which time she will speak on the socio-economic crisis gripping the country. Tintori explained:
I’ll have the floor [on behalf of] the civilian population for approximately four minutes. I think that our problems and our crisis is so severe that this won’t be enough (…) to be able to explain what we feel about Venezuela and what we want for Venezuela.
Tintori will speak during a segment of the summit reserved for citizens of the continent to voice their concerns about issues affecting their respective nations. She is expected to fly to Panama to prepare for the summit some time tonight.
U.S. Backtracks on Venezuela “Threat” Claim
White House deputy national security adviser for Ben Rhodes clarified the text of the executive order which announced sanctions on Venezuelan officials, and appeared to backtrack on the document’s classification of Venezuela as a national security threat to the United States.
Rhodes explained that the all executive orders follow a similar format, apparently implying that the language of the order had not necessarily been tailored to the Venezuelan case. Rhodes explained:
The United States does not believe that Venezuela is a threat to our national security. Honestly, we have a format with which we work on our executive orders.
CEPAL: Economy to Contact 3.5% in 2015
The Comision Economica para America Latina y el Caribe [Latin American and Caribbean Economic Commission] (CEPAL) predicted today that the Venezuelan economy would shrink 3.5% this year, much lower than the previous estimate of 1.0%.
The bad news were not limited to Venezuela: economic growth in Latin America, previously expected to reach 2.2% this year, was revised downward to 1.0%, partially due to a sluggish Brazil.
CEPAL expects that Panama, Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia and the Dominican Republic will lead the region in economic growth at 6.0%, 5.4%, and 5.0%, respectively.
Ledezma Formally Charged
Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma stood before a judge today and was formally charged with conspiracy and associating with the purposes of committing a crime. District attorney Jose Luis Orta read the charges to Ledezma in the Tribunal 6 de Control in Caracas. Ledezma was remanded into custody until the start of his trial.
Ledezma was arrested on February 19 in his office in Caracas by a heavily-armed SEBIN force.
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