WASHINGTON – Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis confirmed on Thursday after meeting with his US counterpart, Rex Tillerson, that “we have to continue increasing the pressure so that Venezuela becomes a democracy again,” adding that they are working on arranging a possible meeting between Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and President Donald Trump in the fall.
“We have to continue increasing the pressure so that Venezuela becomes a democracy again, frees political prisoners and holds true, free, universal and secret elections,” Dastis told reporters at the entrance to the State Department after his meeting with Tillerson, with whom he said he was in agreement on that stance.
Dastis said that Spanish and US authorities must work “above all, with countries in the region,” and he lamented the fact that “the Mexican initiative in the Organization of American States was not successful.”
In its annual assembly this year, held in Cancun in mid-June, the OAS was not able to approve Mexico’s initiative, backed by the US, to include a reference to the Venezuelan crisis in the international body’s general resolution on human rights.
The lack of reference to Venezuela was interpreted as a diplomatic victory for the government of President Nicolas Maduro.
As an alternative, the Spanish minister pointed to the possibility of creating a “group of friends” to allow “the two parties (the Venezuelan government and the opposition) to be able to sit down to talk ... to put an end to this tragic situation of economic, political and humanitarian crisis that Venezuela is experiencing.”
“Attempts and pressure on our part will not be lacking” in the effort to see “free elections” held in Venezuela, Dastis said.
He also emphasized that “it is important for the (Venezuelan) opposition to consolidate the union it is forging, which is fundamental for providing an alternative.”
Venezuela’s crisis has sparked a wave of protests since April 1 that have led to at least 79 deaths in violent clashes between demonstrators the police.
Meanwhile, Dastis said that he and Tillerson were studying the prospects for a US visit by Rajoy this fall.
“The agendas (of Rajoy and Trump) are complicated” and, if it comes off, the Spanish premier’s visit to Washington would be the first official meeting with the US president since Trump took office in January.