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Venezuela takes aim at U.S. ambassador designee

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Venezuela accuses the United States of meddling in its affairs
  • Ambassador designee Palmer answered questions ahead of his confirmation hearing
  • Palmer addressed Venezuela's spat with Colombia and human rights issues
  • The State Department stands behind Palmer

(CNN) -- Venezuela on Thursday lashed out at U.S. President Barack Obama's choice for ambassador over comments made ahead of designee Larry Palmer's confirmation hearing.

In response to a questionnaire by Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Indiana, Palmer said that he had concerns about freedom of expression in Venezuela and that there are "clear ties" between the Venezuelan government and Colombian guerrillas.

Venezuela "considers that the content of those statements sets a precedent of meddling and interventionism from someone that has not even arrived in Venezuelan territory yet," the Venezuelan government said in a statement.

The Venezuelan government said Palmer's comments were "unacceptable declarations" and demanded an explanation from the U.S. government.

In his remarks, Palmer said he shared Lugar's "deep concerns on freedom of the press and freedom of expression in Venezuela, and if confirmed, will continue to raise them with the Government of Venezuela."

The ambassador designee was also concerned by the increasing centralization of power in the executive branch in Venezuela.

Venezuela last month broke off diplomatic relations with Colombia over allegations that Colombian guerrillas were finding safe haven in Venezuela. Colombia has offered evidence that there are guerrilla camps in the neighboring country, but Venezuela has denied it.

Palmer came down on the side of Colombia.

"I am keenly aware of the clear ties between members of the Venezuelan government and Colombian guerrillas. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) maintain camps in Venezuela, and members of the FARC high command have occasionally appeared in public in Caracas," Palmer said.

Palmer also characterized Venezuela's military as suffering from low morale because of politically-oriented appointments.

The U.S. State Department said Thursday that Palmer was simply restating the U.S. position that all countries in the hemisphere would prevent the use of their territory by foreign terrorist organizations.

The United States also denied meddling in Venezuela's affairs.

"The United States strictly adheres to its obligations not to interfere in other nations' affairs and to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other nations," the State Department said in a statement. "We remain interested in a productive relationship with Venezuela based on mutual interests."