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Obama Meets With Maduro, Other Latin American Leaders


Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, center top, flashes a sign during the VII Summit of the Americas' official group photo in Panama City, Panama, April 11, 2015.

Cuban President Raul Castro was not the only Latin American leader to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama at the Americas Summit in Panama.

Obama met with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro who wants the U.S. to lift sanctions recently slapped on seven senior Venezuelan officials accused of human rights abuses tied to anti-government protests last year in Venezuela.

Maduro often criticizes the U.S. for what he says is meddling in his country's affairs, and even accuses the U.S. of trying to overthrow his government.

The Venezuelan president described his meeting with Obama as "frank" and "serious." He said after meeting with Obama that there was now a "possibility" of exploring "a path to relations with respect, which is fundamental."

Venezuelan presidential aide Teresa Maniglia said on her Twitter account that there was "a lot of truth, respect and cordiality" at the meeting, which Obama administration officials said lasted only a few minutes.

National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said Obama "reiterated" in the meeting with President Maduro that the U.S. is not interested "in threatening Venezuela, but in supporting democracy, stability and prosperity in Venezuela and the region."

Several of Maduro's Latin American counterparts have been critical of the sanctions. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who met with Obama at the summit and is slated to meet with Obama in Washington in June, said Saturday that "unilateral measures and policies of isolation" are "always counterproductive and ineffective."

She said the South American regional block UNASUR supports dialogue to ease political tensions in Venezuela.

President Obama also met with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos who said the relations between his country and the U.S. "are at the best level ever."

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, like many of his counterparts at the summit, praised the U.S. president for the push to establish ties with Cuba. He said at the summit's plenary session the "openness to dialogue is charged with promise and possibilities."

Some material for this report came from AP and Reuters.