Venezuela President Hugo Chavez is ready to renew cooperation with the U.S. in the war on drugs, the South American country's El Universal newspaper said on Monday.
Cooperation between the two countries in illegal drug trafficking was severed in 2006 when Chavez refused to cooperate with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), accusing the Americans of spying.
"We can re-make an agreement with the DEA that respects the sovereignty of Venezuela ... but always within the framework of respect," Chavez stated in an interview with El Universal. "I am willing to work with the new government of the United States," he said.
Chavez said that he had followed the nominations in the new U.S. administration "with great interest."
He noted that the new appointments would "open new perspectives" in Venezuelan-American relations. The Venezuelan leader also expressed his hope that U.S. president-elect Barack Obama would be able mend ties between the countries "both politically and personally" once he takes office on January 20, continuing by saying that relations "could not get any worse than during George Bush's administration."
Ties between the two countries "are going to improve" with Obama in office, Chavez said. "I feel that there are winds of change," he said.
Obama has said however that the U.S. has "lost Latin America," and has called Chavez a "demagogue."
The current U.S. administration has accused Venezuela of not fulfilling its obligations with regard to international agreements on the war against illegal drug trafficking.
Chavez has traditionally had tense relations with Washington. Venezuela expelled the U.S. ambassador in September, and Washington responded in kind. However, the United States remains the largest customer for Venezuela's oil, the country's most important export.
According to U.S. government figures, Venezuela is the fourth largest supplier of crude oil to the United States after Canada, Saudi Arabia and Mexico.
In September, the U.S. published its annual list of the countries that it considers the largest producers of narcotics and the biggest "traffickers." Besides Venezuela, the other Latin American countries on the list were Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and Ecuador.
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