John Kerry ‘deeply concerned’ about crisis in Venezuela; meets with Nicolas Maduro

CARTAGENA, Colombia, Sept. 27 (UPI) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he’s “deeply concerned about events in Venezuela” ahead of a meeting with the Latin American country’s President Nicholas Maduro in Cartagena, Colombia.

The two leaders met Monday during Colombia’s peace deal ceremony with the FARC rebel group, though little information was released about what they discussed.

Tensions between the United States and Venezuela have most recently increased by Kerry’s criticism of Maduro’s regime amid the Venezuelan opposition’s attempts to hold a recall referendum, which Kerry has accused Maduro of inhibiting by suppressing the opposition.

“We are deeply concerned about events in Venezuela,” Kerry told reporters on Monday before the brief meeting. “We want to be constructive. We are not looking for conflict.”

Maduro has accused the United States of facilitating an alleged coup d’etat attempt by the opposition, referencing recall referendum efforts. On Wednesday, Maduro accused the United States of violating Venezuela’s airspace by sending a spy plane to the 17th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement.

In August, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said the United States was “deeply disturbed” by the decision of Maduro’s administration to jail opposition leader Daniel Ceballos, the former mayor of San Cristobal, ahead of an opposition rally — an act the opposition said was politically motivated.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC rebel leader Timoleon “Timochenko” Jimenez signed a historic peace agreement on Monday to end more than a half-century of civil war that has killed more than 220,000 people.

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