Maduro ally makes rare appearance at Venezuela business group assembly

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro talks to Venezuela's Vice President Delcy Rodriguez during a meeting with representatives of the Venezuelan automotive sector in Caracas, Venezuela July 12, 2019. Miraflores Palace/Handout via REUTERS

CARACAS, July 20 (Reuters) - Venezuelan business chamber Fedecamaras on Tuesday received Vice President Delcy Rodriguez for the opening of its annual assembly, a sign of easing tensions between business leaders and the socialist government following decades of bitter rivalry.

A 2002 coup against late socialist leader Hugo Chavez briefly installed a Fedecamaras chief as Venezuela's de facto president. The group for years said business was crippled by indiscriminate expropriations and price controls carried out by the ruling Socialist Party.

But President Nicolas Maduro's surprise 2019 liberalization of the economy has allowed for some opportunities after years of economic contracting and hyperinflation, leading to a quiet rapprochement between authorities and entrepreneurs.

Rodriguez, the first high-level government official to speak at a Fedecamaras assembly in more than 20 years, dedicated much of her speech at the chamber's Caracas headquarters to lashing out at U.S. sanctions and opposition politicians.

But she also said that since the coronavirus pandemic began, the government and the private sector have found some common ground in meetings held to discuss public health issues.

"You made some proposals, we addressed some of them, we listened to all of them," said Rodriguez. "We didn't address some proposals because we had differences with them. There can be differences, but that doesn't stop us from sitting down to talk."

Outgoing Fedecamaras President Ricardo Cusanno said business leaders need to separate their political beliefs from entrepreneurial endeavors, noting that the presence of Rodriguez was already generating criticism on social media.

"We're a trending topic on social media. Why? Because representatives of the executive and legislative branches have come to the Fedecamaras headquarters," Cusanno said.

"That shouldn't be a trending topic. That's normal."

Reporting by Brian Ellsworth and Mayela Armas, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.