- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2009

CARACAS, VENEZUELA (AP) - The top official at the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela said Tuesday that ambassadors won’t be returning to Washington and Caracas anytime soon, but he was optimistic that diplomatic relations will improve.

Charge d’Affaires John Caulfield said testy relations between the countries will not change in “a moment or a day,” despite President Hugo Chavez’s announcement last week at a summit that Venezuela would restore its ambassador to Washington.

“It’s a process that takes some time, and it’s not possible to say when we can bring this new phase of normalizing relations to fruition,” Caulfield told Globovision television network.

Caulfield said President Barack Obama has yet to appoint a new ambassador to Caracas, and he noted that any forthcoming appointment would have to be approved by the U.S. Senate.

“For Chavez the process is more simple. For President Obama the process is more complicated,” he said.

Chavez made the announcement after meeting Obama at a summit of 34 hemispheric leaders in Trinidad and Tobago. He also said he hopes for a “new era” in relations with the U.S.

Relations between the two countries soured under former U.S. President George W. Bush.

Chavez expelled Washington’s ambassador to Venezuela, Patrick Duddy, in September to show solidarity with Bolivia’s president, who kicked out the U.S. ambassador to La Paz for allegedly helping his opponents to incite violence.

Washington, which denied the allegations, reciprocated by kicking out both nations’ envoys.

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