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Venezuela halts communication with U.S.

| Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 9:45 p.m.

CARACAS — Venezuela's government has halted lines of communication established by a top U.S. diplomat to protest what it says has been interference in the country's internal affairs before an election set next month to replace the late President Hugo Chavez.

Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said in a news conference on Wednesday that U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson had violated Venezuela's sovereignty despite reaching out to the government before Chavez's March 5 death.

He accused Jacobson of supporting opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, although he didn't provide any evidence.

“We want normal relations with the United States based on mutual respect,” Jaua said.

He said the government had formally “suspended any contact and any communication that had been established with the call of Mrs. Jacobson in the month of November.”

He emphasized, however, that diplomatic and consular relations would remain between the two countries. The U.S. Embassy in Caracas had not responded to a request for comment.

Venezuela's government expelled two U.S. military attaches this month for allegedly talking to members of the country's armed forces. Washington responded by ejecting two Venezuelan diplomats, who were honored by Jaua.

Before an April 14 presidential vote, Venezuelan officials have escalated their rhetoric against the United States, with acting leader and government candidate Nicolas Maduro even accusing the United States of infecting Chavez with the cancer that killed him.

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