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VENEZUELA

Official: U.S. relations unlikely to improve soon

CARACAS — Strained ties between Venezuela and the United States are unlikely to improve for now, the South American nation’s top diplomat said Sunday.

Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro suggested conservatives in the U.S. Congress were largely to blame.

“On instructions from President Hugo Chavez, we have been ready to move toward a process of respectful communication and normalization of ties, [but] then [the U.S.] reactionary right wing makes itself heard and there would seem to be no likelihood in the short term for things to be otherwise,” Mr. Maduro told local Televen television.

Mr. Chavez is a leftist former paratrooper, a harsh critic of the U.S. and the key ally of communist Cuba. Caracas and Washington have diplomatic relations, but have not had ambassadors in place since 2010.

Mr. Maduro said Venezuela demands “absolute respect” and “noninterference in Venezuelan affairs.”

“It would seem impossible” for the United States to agree to those terms, he stressed.

The last U.S. ambassador, Patrick Duddy, left Caracas last year, and Washington withdrew the diplomatic visa of Venezuelan envoy Bernardo Alvarez, so that he could not return to his post from a visit home.

HAITI

President: Plan for new army needs study

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Haiti’s president says his government is putting off a controversial plan to restore the country’s disbanded military until a commission can be formed to study if this is the best alternative to the current U.N. peacekeeping force.

President Michel Martelly said he was appointing a civilian commission that over the course of 40 days will identify the goals of a new military force.

The restoration of the military was one of Mr. Martelly’s campaign promises but drew immediate opposition from foreign diplomats and other critics, who said the country would be better off strengthening its underfunded and undermanned national police force.

“We will work to modernize the police but we need the army to protect the whole nation,” Mr. Martelly said during a speech Friday in the capital’s central plaza to mark a battle that led to independence from France in 1804. “I’m telling you today that the dignity of the Haitian people is coming with the creation of the armed forces.”

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