July 12, 2007
U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, on a one-day visit to Brazil, told reporters that most countries in the region agree that ``the way forward is not through the politics of fear and division but democracy, social justice, poverty alleviation, trade, integration in the Americas and good relations with the United States.''
''This is not in Chavez's agenda,'' said Burns, who later addressed the closing session of a U.S.-Brazil innovation conference.
But Burns also downplayed Chavez's influence in the region.
''Leaders tend to gravitate to other leaders who have a positive and constructive role,'' Burns said, naming Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Chile's Michelle Bachelet. ``I could name 10 other leaders, but Chavez is not one of them.''
Joining Burns was Thomas Shannon, assistant secretary of state for western hemispheric affairs, who spoke of strong commercial ties between Venezuela and the United States.
''Venezuela is one of the largest Latin American investors in the U.S. and the U.S. is the largest foreign investor in Venezuela,'' Shannon said. ``Close energy and commercial relations is the reality, which is not reflected in the rhetoric that comes from Caracas.''
Despite the strained relations between Caracas and Washington, Venezuela remains the fourth-leading supplier of imported crude and refined petroleum products to the United States.