MEXICO CITY (AP) — The State Department said Wednesday the U.S. may have to take a larger role in trying to ease the crisis in Venezuela if a South American effort to broker talks between the government in Caracas and the opposition remains stalled.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was in Mexico to discuss potential next steps with officials there.
The U.S. has supported regional efforts to reach a compromise. But a senior State Department official told reporters Wednesday that the standoff needs to be resolved within days, or weeks at most, or risk the continued of violent unrest that has gripped Venezuela for months.
The official said Kerry and Mexican officials are expected to look at what more can each country do to help the regional talks and Washington may have to exert its influence with another country in the region which has stronger ties to Caracas. The official was not authorized to discuss the diplomatic plans by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Congress is considering issuing sanctions against Venezuelan officials to punish them for human rights abuses.
President Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday lashed out at the prospect of U.S. sanctions, rejecting as "detestable" a Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote on Tuesday to allow the Obama administration to impose a visa ban and freeze the assets of Venezuelan officials who committed human rights abuses.
Regional governments have so far refused to back the U.S. calls for condemnation of Maduro's government. Most instead are hopeful that a month-long mediation effort led by Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador, along with a representative of the Vatican, can ease tensions that have led to the deaths of at least 42 people on both sides since unrest began in February.
Protests in recent weeks have died down as a result of the government crackdown and divisions within the opposition over whether to engage the government in negotiations. Still, frustration with Maduro's government is rising as food shortages and galloping inflation erode support for his rule with his base among the poor.
Associated Press writer Joshua Goodman contributed to this report from Caracas.
Original headline: Kerry off to Mexico for talks on Venezuelan crisis
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