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Venezuela halts normalization talks with US

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July 20, 2013 09:52 PM EST | AP

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CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela says it's ending talks with the United States to restore normal relations because Washington's U.N. ambassador-designate criticized its human rights record.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement late Friday that Samantha Power's remarks compelled it to halt the process begun in Guatemala last month by its foreign minister, Elias Jaua, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Power said in Senate confirmation hearings Wednesday that Venezuela is guilty of a "crackdown on civil society," along with Cuba, Iran and Russia.

Jaua and Kerry had said they would fast-track talks to resume ambassadorial-level ties absent since 2010.

Those prospects dimmed after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro later offered asylum to U.S. leaker Edward Snowden. Kerry subsequently called Jaua and threatened unspecified action if Snowden wound up in Venezuelan hands.