By Girish Gupta
CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro said on Tuesday he is hopeful for improved relations with the United States, a day after meeting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
Maduro met Kerry in Colombia’s coastal city of Cartagena after the signing of a major peace deal between leftist guerrillas and the Colombian government.
“I ask that God bless the results of the meeting and that Venezuela opens a new era of relations with the United States,” Maduro said during his weekly hours-long show on state television, adding that the pair spoke for 40 minutes.
The two countries have had rocky relations since Hugo Chavez became president in 1999 and Venezuela replaced Cuba as Washington’s primary irritant in the region.
Venezuela is going through a major economic crisis, with inflation in triple digits and many complaining of hunger.
The U.S. government said Kerry spoke with Maduro about Venezuela’s “economic and political challenges,” urging him to work with the country’s opposition.
U.S. Republican candidate Donald Trump said in July that the United States would “end up being Venezuela” if his rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton, were to win the White House in November’s vote.
Maduro has in the past called Trump a “bandit and thief.”
The Venezuelan president added that veteran U.S. diplomat Tom Shannon, who has been the U.S. point man for the troubled relationship, will visit Caracas again soon and that an invitation was open to Kerry.
(Additional reporting by Corina Pons; Editing by Alexandra Ulmer, Robert Birsel)