Venezuela hopes for improved U.S. relations in Trump presidency

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro (top C) greets supporters as he arrives for his weekly broadcast "En contacto con Maduro" (In contact with Maduro) in La Victoria, Venezuela November 20, 2016. Miraflores Palace/Handout via REUTERS

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Sunday he hopes for an improvement in relations with nemesis the United States after Donald Trump’s White House win, despite last year calling the real estate tycoon a “bandit and thief.”

Since he came to power in 2013, Maduro has railed against the United States, blaming it for being behind an “economic war” which has left the OPEC nation in crisis with triple-digit inflation and major shortages.

Trump said in July that the United States would “end up being Venezuela” if his rival Hillary Clinton were to win the White House.

“I hope that during the next presidency of the United States, with Donald Trump, Venezuela will have better relations...and overcome...grave errors committed by George W. Bush which were sadly deepened by (Barack) Obama,” Maduro said in a televised broadcast.

Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez infamously called former U.S. President George W. Bush the “devil” at the United Nations a decade ago, when relations were at their nadir.

The two countries have had rocky relations since Chavez became president in 1999 and Venezuela replaced Cuba as Washington’s primary irritant in the region.

Maduro met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Colombia in September. Kerry spoke with Maduro about Venezuela’s “economic and political challenges,” urging him to work with the country’s opposition, according to the U.S. government.

Reporting by Diego Ore; Writing by Girish Gupta; Editing by Mary Milliken