Washington (AFP) - US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday urged Venezuela to engage in "political dialogue" ahead of elections later this year.
The top US diplomat used his statement congratulating Venezuela on its 204th independence day July 5 as an opportunity to highlight the "common spirit" between the two countries.
"Our nations were built on the same ideals of freedom, equality, justice and democracy," Kerry told the people of Venezuela, which holds elections on December 6.
"As you look toward legislative elections, political dialogue will be important in ensuring peaceful resolution of disputes and the integrity of your democratic process."
Ties between Washington and Caracas have improved recently, after years of strained relations that saw the nations evict each other's ambassadors in 2010.
But high-level US officials have traveled twice to Caracas since April for talks, which the State Department described as "positive and productive."
The two sides also held a high-level diplomatic meeting in Haiti last month.
"I look forward to further cooperation between our people and governments as we seek ways to improve a historically strong relationship," Kerry said.
Socialist President Nicolas Maduro, successor to strongman Hugo Chavez, faces sinking approval ratings as Venezuela's economy wallows in recession.
Anti-government protests rocked Venezuela last year and Maduro's forces were accused of violently quashing the unrest.
US lawmakers, particularly Republicans, have called for reforms in the South American nation.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker, after a two-day trip to Venezuela where he met government officials and opposition members, blasted Venezuela's "flawed economic policies and political system."
And he warned the country was "heading to some very difficult times" unless reforms are implemented.