Washington does not view Venezuela as the centre of the universe said a top U.S. diplomat Wednesday when asked whether Washington fears a new anti-imperialist television network based in Caracas will expand the influence of leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Nicholas Burns, U.S. Undersecretary of State for political affairs, spoke to reporters as he wrapped up a two-day visit to Colombia, Washington's staunchest ally in the region.
Though the Bush administration and Venezuela's Castro-allied president have long been engaged in a war of words, Burns insisted Mr. Chavez "won't distract us from other affairs".
Regarding Telesur, the cable network sponsored y Venezuela, Argentina, Cuba and Uruguay, with allegedly the purpose of fostering regional identity and "fight imperialism in all its forms", Mr. Burns remarked that it remains to bee seen whether it will work as "an arm of the Venezuelan government" or "a free network".
"Our efforts in Latin America focus on our friends" he said, adding that "we have relations with democratic states, with Mexico, with all our friends and partners in Central America, with Colombia, with Brazil, with Chile, with Argentina, and our friendship with Ecuador, Bolivia".
These administrations "are serving the needs of their people. They favour peace and reconciliation in our hemisphere and are the countries that have a positive agenda for the hemisphere".
United States he insisted "wants a hemisphere with a positive future for all our friends" and added that in Venezuela's case, "the challenge is for it to join us, the majority group".
Undersecretary Burns also reiterated United States' support for Colombian President Alvaro Uribe saying Washington "has no closer partner in Latin America than Colombia", and anticipated continued support for Bogotá in its struggle against drug traffickers and "terrorists", the term both president Uribe and Washington use to describe the country's strong leftist guerrillas closely linked to the narcotics trade.
He also called on the largest insurgent group, FARC, to release the hundreds of hostages it is holding including three U.S. defence contractors.
Finally Mr. Burns praised president Uribe peace talks with the right wing militias, insisting that those found guilty of atrocities must answer for them.