Venezuela suspends normalization talks with U.S.

Caracas, Mar 20 (EFE).- Venezuela announced Wednesday the suspension of high-level contacts with the United States aimed at a thaw in bilateral ties that have been frozen since late 2010.

Venezuela's permanent representative to the Washington-based Organization of American States, Roy Chaderton, was instructed to tell U.S. officials that the talks are suspended pending "a clearer message about what kind of relationship" the United States wants with Venezuela, Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said.

Jaua cited comments made on March 5 - the day Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez died after a long fight with cancer - by Washington's top diplomat for Latin America, Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson.

"We stand ready to support Venezuela during this period. Part of moving forward will be the election of a new president, which should be carried out in accordance with Venezuela's commitments to the hemisphere's high democratic standards," Jacobson said.

The election to choose someone to serve the rest of Chavez's 2013-2019 mandate is set for April 14.

The U.S. and Venezuelan governments confirmed in January that they had been holding informal talks since late November.

Discussions began after Jacobson reached out to Venezuela's then-foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, who is now acting head of state and the ruling leftist PSUV's candidate in next month's election.

Hours before Chavez's death, Venezuela expelled the U.S. air attache in Caracas and his aide, accusing them of having tried to recruit Venezuelan military officers for "destabilizing projects."

Washington rejected the allegation and threw out two Venezuelan diplomats in retaliation.

"It doesn't make sense to continue wasting time," Jaua said Wednesday of Chaderton's talks with Jacobson, while adding that bilateral diplomatic and consular relations will not be affected by the suspension.

"When you understand that you are talking to a sovereign people, call us back," the foreign minister said, addressing the U.S. government.

Venezuela rejected the prospective U.S. ambassador to the Andean nation in late 2010 after he offended Caracas with comments to a Senate committee.

The United States then booted Venezuela's envoy in Washington.