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Kerry in Mexico for talks on Venezuelan crisis

Published:Thursday | May 22, 2014 | 12:00 AM

The US State Department said Wednesday the United States may have to take a larger role in trying to ease the crisis in Venezuela if a South American effort to broker talks between the government in Caracas and the opposition remains stalled.

US Secretary of State John Kerry was in Mexico to discuss potential next steps with officials there.

The US has supported regional efforts to reach a compromise. But a senior State Department official told reporters Wednesday that the stand-off needs to be resolved within days, or weeks at most, or risk the continued, violent unrest that has gripped Venezuela for months.

The official said Kerry and Mexican officials are expected to look at what more can each country do to help the regional talks and Washington may have to exert its influence with another country in the region which has stronger ties to Caracas. The official was not authorised to discuss the diplomatic plans by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Congress is considering issuing sanctions against Venezuelan officials to punish them for human-rights abuses.

President Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday lashed out at the prospect of US sanctions, rejecting as "detestable" a Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote on Tuesday to allow the Obama administration to impose a visa ban and freeze the assets of Venezuelan officials who committed human-rights abuses.

Regional governments have so far refused to back the US calls for condemnation of Maduro's government. Most instead are hopeful that a monthlong mediation effort led by Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador, along with a representative of the Vatican, can ease tensions that have led to the deaths of at least 42 people on both sides since unrest began in February.

Protests in recent weeks have died down as a result of the government crackdown and divisions within the opposition over whether to engage the government in negotiations. Still, frustration with Maduro's government is rising as food shortages and galloping inflation erode support for his rule with his base among the poor.

- AP