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Obama concerned about Venezuela's struggling economy

U.S. President Barack Obama checks his watch, a reference to his time left in office, while speaking at the Chief of Missions Conference at the State Department in Washington March 14, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama, in an interview that aired on Monday, voiced concern about the struggling Venezuelan economy and said he did not want to see the country fail despite the tense relations between Washington and Caracas.

“It’s not in America’s interest to see Venezuela fail, because if Venezuela fails then that could have an impact on the economies of Colombia or Central America or Mexico, and that in turn can affect U.S. economies,” Obama told CNN Espanol.

A year ago, the United States declared Venezuela a national security threat and ordered sanctions against seven officials who Washington said had violated human rights or engaged in corruption.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro denounced the sanctions as an attempt to topple his Socialist government.

Venezuela’s economy suffers from runaway inflation and chronic product shortages that critics blame on the government’s heavy-handed policies.

Maduro points to the global oil price collapse as the main source of Venezuela’s woes. The OPEC nation depends on crude for more than 90 percent of its export revenues.

An opposition alliance won control of the Venezuelan National Assembly in a vote at the end of 2015 and has launched a campaign to remove Maduro via street rallies, a recall referendum and a constitutional amendment.

“The sooner the Venezuelan people can determine a government that they have confidence in that is legitimate, and that can start instituting economic policies that pull them out of the spiral that they’re in, the better off it’s going to be for all of us,” Obama said.

Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Peter Cooney