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Venezuela’s Vice-President José Vicente Rangel said yesterday that Venezuela would not change its foreign policy towards the United States. Rangel made the comments in response to U.S. State Department spokesperson Tom Casey, who had also said that the U.S. does not plan to change its policies towards Venezuela because of the departure of Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega.

Roger Noriega had repeatedly made comments about Venezuela, claiming that there was much evidence that the government of President Hugo Chavez was destabilizing neighboring countries such as Colombia, Ecuador, and Bolivia.

Venezuelan government officials and officials from the governments in question, however, have denied these allegations. Noriega announced last week that he would soon be leaving the Bush administration. According to the New York Times, unnamed sources told its reporter that Noriega was being pushed out because he was sabotaging behind the scenes efforts to improve ties with Venezuela.

When spokesperson Casey was asked if Noriega’s hard-line positions towards Venezuela might be changed after Noriega leaves, Casey answered that the bush administration has no plans to change its policies towards Venezuela. Vice-President Rangel responded, “My reply is that we too will not change. ... Every aggression of theirs we will respond to with Noriega or without Noriega. We hope that they will have a little bit of lucidity and will realize that their policy enormously damages the relations between the two countries, but damages it especially for the United States.”

Rangel also said that currently, though, there are “interesting signs” about developing high-level talks between Venezuela and the U.S. Rangel would not specify what these signs were or what they might lead to. “We are always open for dialog,” said Rangel.

With regard to Venezuelan-U.S. cooperation in the interdiction of drug trafficking, Rangel said that this cooperation has increased recently, even though Venezuela has broken off its work with the U.S. government’s Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). “We have freed ourselves from the DEA for now and so [the relationship] has improved noticeably. We are placing the relationship on the level of sovereignty, which had been very affected by the less than clear relationship with the DEA,” said Rangel. Last week, Interior Minister Jesse Chacon had announced that Venezuela was breaking off its work with the DEA because the DEA was supposedly interfering in internal affairs of the Venezuelan government and that DEA officials were acting outside of Venezuelan law. Venezuela’s Ambassador to the U.S. Responds to Noriega Resignation

Speaking to the news agency Bloomberg, Venezuela’s Ambassador to the U.S., Bernardo Alvarez, said, “ We need less ideology and more diplomacy,” in response to Roger Noriega’s resignation.

Alvarez added, “We have a complex relationship with the U.S. that includes some differences and some common interests. ... We’re open to a more normal relationship. For that to work we have to have mutual respect. We’ll keep trying.”