Venezuela's US ambassador discusses needs in Houston

HOUSTON – The ties between Houston and Venezuela are strong.

Not only are there about 50,000 Venezuelans living in the city, but last year, half a million barrels of Venezuelan oil were refined in the Bayou City.

Houston's Venezuelan community is desperate for answers about what's happening in their country. The Venezuelan ambassador said one of the first things he wants to do is reopen the consulate in Houston.

Embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro held a televised meeting with his cabinet Tuesday and accused the United States of launching a cyberattack against Venezuela's power facilities. He claimed the attack was launched from Houston and Chicago.

After the massive blackout last Thursday, the situation is deteriorating, and a stalemate continues between Maduro and self-declared interim President Juan Guaido.

"I want to send a clear message to them that we are in the process of changing Venezuela. Venezuela is ready for a change," Guaido said.

Carlos Vecchio, Guaido's newly appointed ambassador to the U.S., made a stop in Houston to speak at the CERAWeek oil convention. He said a new Venezuela is coming.

"We are very close. Nobody's going to stop that change. We have a huge opportunity in front of us in order to recover our democracy," Vecchio said.

It's a message local Venezuelans said they've been waiting to hear for a long time.

But Francisco Monaldi, a fellow of Latin American energy policy at Rice University's Baker Institute, said it's a change that won't come easy.

"Until the de facto ruler of Venezuela is removed from office and a new government takes charge, they will have a limited capacity to influence what happens in the country, including getting humanitarian aid in and solving the crisis," Monaldi said.

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