Pubdate: Wed, 03 Sep 2008
Source: Miami Herald (FL)
Copyright: 2008 Miami Herald Media Co.
Author: Associated Press


WASHINGTON -- The U.S. government said Tuesday it needs to see changes
from Venezuela's government before the two countries can have a better
relationship in the fight against drugs.

The comments followed Venezuelan President Hugo ChA!vez's warning that
U.S. Ambassador Patrick Duddy risks expulsion after the ambassador
said drug traffickers are taking advantage of the ''gap'' that exists
between the United Stats and Venezuela.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters that the U.S.
government is ''prepared to have a better relationship'' but needs
``to see some actions on the side of the Venezuelan

U.S. frustrations with Venezuela, he said, are ''based on facts; we
can't change the facts.'' He said U.S. officials are ``going to
continue to speak out about what we see happening inside

U.S. anti-drug chief John Walters has said his attempt to restart
cooperation has been stymied as Venezuelan officials have yet to agree
to his request for a meeting.

In an Aug. 20 letter to Walters, Venezuela's ambassador to Washington,
Bernardo Alvarez, said tentative dates for a meeting between ChA!vez
and Walters ''are being evaluated'' while the Venezuelan president has
an ``intense international and domestic agenda.''

Alvarez said visa requests for Walters and his team ``will be
processed once the meeting has been confirmed.''

Walters said he aims to impose no conditions and would meet with
''whatever appropriate officials'' in Venezuela in order to boost
counter-drug cooperation, which the United States says is sorely lacking.

Walters also told The Associated Press recently that if the
Venezuelans do not wish to meet, ''we don't have to start with a
meeting,'' and ``the issue is: how do we start reducing the problem?''