The United States on Thursday denied that it is meddling in a possible transition process in Venezuela amid growing demands for news about the health of cancer-stricken President Hugo Chavez.
Washington was in contact with "Venezuelans from across the political spectrum," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland acknowledged, asked about reports that US officials had had talks with Venezuelan leaders.
But she insisted: "Any political transition that takes place in Venezuela has to be product of decisions that are made by Venezuelans."
"There's no 'made-in-America' solution here. This has to be something that Venezuelans have to do," Nuland stressed, without specifying who US officials were in contact with in the South American nation.
Top Venezuelan officials have been gathering in Cuba where Chavez underwent a long and complicated surgery 23 days ago for a recurrence of cancer, with Venezuelan officials admitting his recovery has been difficult.
Chavez, a fiery leftist who has been fiercely critical of the United States was re-elected on October 7 despite his long battle with cancer, is supposed to take office in a week for another six-year term.
But it was still unclear whether he would be fit to be sworn in as planned on January 10.
"The message that we are giving to Venezuelans of all stripes, that we want to see any transition be democratic, be constitutional, be open, be transparent, be legal within Venezuela, and that it has to be decided by Venezuelans," Nuland said.
She said the US administration had seen reports of growing Venezuelan concern that the government in Caracas was "not being transparent" about the true state of the president's health.
But she said the State Department could not share any information it may have independently gleaned.
On Wednesday, Bolivian President Evo Morales, a close Chavez friend and ally, said he had spoken to his family and his condition was "very worrying."
"Let's hope our prayers will be effective in saving the life of brother President Chavez," Morales said of Chavez, the longtime leader of OPEC member Venezuela, which has the world's largest proven oil reserves.