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John Kerry Meets Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro: ‘We Are Very, Very Concerned’

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met the head of state of socialist Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, during Monday’s ceremony to celebrate an amnesty deal between the government of Colombia and the terrorist group FARC. During the meeting, Kerry expressed extreme concern with Maduro’s mismanagement of the country, offering to “work constructively” with Venezuela.

“We are very, very concerned for the people of Venezuela, for the level of conflict, the hunger, the lack of medicine,” Kerry told reporters shortly before his meeting with Maduro. “The humanitarian situation elicits extreme concern.”

“We are looking for a solution that works for Venezuelans. I celebrate the opportunity to have a meeting with President Maduro,” Kerry added. He also described the Venezuelan government’s obstruction of a popular campaign to recall Maduro as “problematic” and Venezuela as “a nation under siege.”

As for the content of the actual meeting between the two officials, the State Department’s John Kirby said after the meeting that Kerry had told Maduro “of our concern about the economic and political challenges that have affected millions of Venezuelans, and he urged President Maduro to work constructively with opposition leaders to address these challenges”:

Venezuelan socialist state media described the meeting as “respectful,” despite the fact that Maduro’s government blames the United States for the ongoing crisis in the nation, and provided no details as to the content of the encounter. Maduro has repeatedly claimed that America is waging an “economic war” against Venezuela, which has limited the nation’s ability to trade, in addition to personally accusing Vice President Joe Biden of organizing a coup plot against him.

Venezuela has the world’s largest proven oil reserves and is an OPEC nation, yet its economy has the world’s highest inflation rate, estimated at 700 percent. Venezuelan markets struggle to remain stocked, and, due to Maduro’s ration laws, even those Venezuelans who have the money to buy what they need are legally banned from buying more than what the government deems is necessary for each family to eat. Maduro’s strict price controls have also made importing food and medicine from abroad nearly impossible, as has his law demanding such trade be conducted in the national currency, the bolívar, which few businesses wish to use due to its meager value.

Venezuela’s food supply is so limited that Maduro ordered the military to take control of it, establishing Socialist Party action groups to distribute it. Opposition activists have warned that such a measure means the socialists control the nation’s food and have the power to starve out individuals who publicly oppose the government.

Those who are not well-connected within the government of fortunate enough to live near the border with Colombia, where Venezuela has relented and allowed crossings to shop in Colombian stores, must resort to extremes to survive. A recent poll found that 15 percent of Venezuelans are eating garbage disposed of by commercial enterprises like restaurants and cafes, as they cannot find enough food for their families otherwise.

Maduro and Kerry met in the coastal city of Cartagena, Colombia, where Monday, President Juan Manuel Santos welcomed the leader of the world’s wealthiest non-jihadist terror group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), to shake hands on a peace deal that would allow most members of the terrorist group to escape prison time and establish the FARC as a Marxist political party. Maduro and his predecessor, the late dictator Hugo Chávez, are avid supporters of the FARC terror group. Two of Maduro’s nephews have been charged in a New York court with attempting to traffic FARC cocaine into the United States.

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