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Venezuela Blasts US in New York Times Ad

  • Associated Press

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro looks on outside Miraflores Palace in Caracas, March 15, 2015.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro looks on outside Miraflores Palace in Caracas, March 15, 2015.

Venezuela has placed a full page ad in the New York Times to reject what it says are "tyrannical" attempts by the U.S. to undermine its socialist system.

The ad declaring that "Venezuela is not a threat" comes amid mounting tensions between the two countries after President Nicolas Maduro this month accused the U.S. of plotting to oust him and ordered the American Embassy in Caracas to slash staffing levels.

The U.S. has denied the accusations and in turn applied sanctions on seven Venezuelan officials it for allegedly violating human rights during anti-government protests last year.

"Never before in the history of our nations, has a president of the United States attempted to govern Venezuelans by decree," according to the ad, which calls on the Obama administration to immediately cease all hostile actions.

"It is a tyrannical and imperial order and it pushes us back into the darkest days of the relationship" between the U.S. and Latin America.

The media outreach comes as officials in both Caracas and Washington engage in another round of rhetorical posturing.

On Capitol Hill, U.S. Senators grilled senior administration officials on what more the U.S. can do to defuse a deepening political and economic crisis in Venezuela. The oil-dependent economy has been suffering from widespread food shortages and the world's fastest inflation even before a recent plunge in crude prices had burned a hole in the government's finances.

Alex Lee, the deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America, said that legislative elections expected to take place in the South American country later this year will present an opportunity to reduce tensions because Venezuelans' political views will be heard.

But he emphasized it's important for regional governments, almost all of which have rejected the U.S. sanctions as heavy handed, mount a robust observation mission to ensure voting results are credible.

Lee said concerns about Venezuela would be one of President Barack Obama's top priorities when he travels next month to Panama to attend the Summit of Americas.

Meanwhile Cuban President Raul Castro and Bolivia's Evo Morales arrived in Caracas Tuesday for an emergency meeting of the Venezuelan-led ALBA bloc of leftist regional governments.

The 12-nation group is expected to express support for Venezuela's position that its sovereignty is being violated by U.S. attempts to destabilize the country.

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