WASHINGTON The United States is working with Colombia and other countries to see if mediation can bring opposing sides in Venezuela together for talks on ending unrest there, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday.
"We are working closely with Colombia and other countries to try to see how some kind of mediation might be able to take place, because it's obviously already proven very difficult for the two sides to bring themselves together by themselves," Kerry said during a joint news conference with his Colombian counterpart.
"They need to sit down and come together and talk about the future of Venezuela and how they can best affect that future in a peaceful and responsible way," he said.
A month of student-led demonstrations and violence in Venezuela has killed at least 17 people and exposed deep discontent with Venezuela's economic problems.
Kerry repeated that the United States was willing to have a more constructive relationship with the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who expelled three U.S. embassy staff he said were recruiting students to rise up against him.
The United States called the accusations baseless and in reciprocal actions expelled three Venezuelan diplomats.
"Unfortunately, Venezuela has spontaneously decided again and again to move in a different direction and more often than not to blame the United States for its own lack of governance and inattention to its economy and dealing with its own citizens," Kerry said.
Asked whether Washington was considering imposing sanctions against the Venezuelan government, Kerry said that was something U.S. lawmakers were pushing for.
He said the debate in the United States and among others over Venezuela's crackdown on protesters, including imprisonment of protest leader Leopoldo Lopez, was appropriate.
"We will examine every aspect of what is available to us as an option to us but most importantly we need a dialogue in Venezuela, not arrests and violence in the streets, and persecution against young people who are voicing their hopes for a future," Kerry said.
(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)