Reuters International

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry disembarks from his airplane upon his arrival in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates June 8, 2016. REUTERS/Saul Loeb/Pool


By Lesley Wroughton

SANTO DOMINGO (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet his Venezuelan counterpart Delcy Rodriguez on Tuesday at a meeting of Western foreign ministers, U.S. officials said, as Venezuela's socialist government struggles with a deepening crisis.

The meeting comes amid a swirl of diplomacy surrounding Venezuela, which is undergoing political and economic turmoil that has led to a wave of looting and food riots.

Venezuela is not officially on the agenda of this week's meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly in the Dominican Republic but officials said it will dominate discussions.

"A consensus is emerging among OAS member states that the organization can and must play an active role in averting a humanitarian crisis and political unrest in Venezuela,” a senior U.S. State Department official said.

The meeting is unlikely to adopt a declaration on Venezuela but OAS officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said foreign ministers will separately try to agree on a statement that addresses Venezuela's problems.

The United States has called for dialogue and the release of political prisoners in Venezuela, and supports opposition efforts to organise a recall referendum that could cut short President Nicolas Maduro's term, a measure allowed under Venezuelan law.

All these issues are likely to be raised by Kerry in the meeting with Rodriguez.

Venezuela's government and opposition held separate meetings with mediators in the Dominican Republic in recent weeks to explore possibilities of dialogue but little progress was made.

Maduro, 53, who won an election to succeed Hugo Chavez in 2013, accuses foes of deliberately stirring up trouble and seeking a coup.

OAS chief Luis Almagro has separately requested an emergency meeting this month on Venezuela, initiating a process that could end in the country's suspension from the OAS.

Almagro, a former Uruguayan foreign minister, has backed the calls for a recall referendum against Maduro, who he accused of disrupting democracy by blocking the opposition-controlled national assembly and putting loyalists in the Supreme Court.

Maduro's government has called OAS' move to censure his country part of a scheme to take Venezuela's oil.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Susan Heavey and James Dalgleish)


 Reuters International