Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro praised the Obama administration's opposition to a bill imposing sanctions on officials, which he argues could cause his country to shut down its diplomatic missions in the United States, according to The Associated Press.
The bill calls for freezing any U.S. assets and denying visas to Venezuelan officials accused of violating human rights during a wave of protests that started in February, the AP reported.
Maduro said Thursday the measure, which has cleared the House of Representatives but faces a challenge in the Senate, could "lead to the point of not having an embassy or consulates in the United States," the AP reported. "That's an extreme point that I want to avoid," he added during a televised event. "I want the best relations with the government of the United States, based on respect and permanent communications."
Maduro spoke in response to comments by Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson, according to the AP.
Maduro said he had read the remarks "with great attention" and said the "leap toward good sense" had led him to name a new top diplomat in Washington, the AP reported.
Maduro and his backers, following the path of former President Hugo Chavez, have repeatedly accused Washington of trying to topple him and have blamed the U.S. for stirring up the protests in which at least 42 people have died, according to the AP.
Earlier this week, pro-Maduro Caracas Mayor Jorge Rodriguez announced that the U.S. ambassador to Colombia, Kevin Whitaker, was implicated in a plot to kill the president, the AP reported. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki called the allegation baseless.
Maduro said his new top diplomat in Washington would be former Venezuelan ambassador to Brazil Maximilien Sanchez Arvelaiz, according to the AP. In February, Maduro publicly named Sanchez Arvelaiz to fill the vacant ambassadorship in Washington, but U.S. officials have not acted on the proposal.