‘I respect you, but I don’t trust you’ – Maduro to Obama

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro. (Reuters/Mariana Bazo)
The Venezuelan and US presidents, whose strained relations cast a shadow over the Summit of the Americas in Panama, held a private meeting for the first time in an attempt to alleviate tensions over US-imposed sanctions.

It was a serious and sincere encounter,” Nicolas Maduro said of the meeting, which was held behind closed doors. “We told the truth and I would say it was cordial,” he added.

Hours earlier, speaking at the summit, he was harsher on his US counterpart.

I respect you, but I don't trust you, President Obama,” Maduro told the summit, although at that moment the US president was absent from the room, holding bilateral talks with Colombia's president.

A consistent critic of Washington, Venezuelan President arrived to Panama City with a petition condemning sanctions against his country. Maduro claimed the petition was signed by 13 million people.

READ MORE: Millions of Venezuelans sign petition against US aggression & interference

In March, President Obama signed an executive order, saying that “the situation in Venezuela” posed “unusual and extraordinary threat” to the US security and putting seven Venezuelan officials on a sanctions list.

Maduro slammed the move by saying it was US’s attempt at “intervening in Venezuela to control it.

READ MORE: Maduro: US trying to ‘defeat’ Venezuela govt with sanctions, we’ll fight back

The sanctions have angered other Latin American leaders, who expressed their irritation at the summit.

"The response has been forceful, rejecting the executive order and demanding its removal," Ecuador's leftist president, Rafael Correa, said at the summit. "Our people will never again accept tutelage, meddling and intervention."

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff also joined critics of the recent US sanctions against seven Venezuelan officials.

This good moment for hemispheric relations can no longer allow unilateral measures and policies of isolation in general, and they are always counterproductive and ineffective," Rousseff said. “For that reason we reject the adoption of sanctions against Venezuela,” she added, noting that the South American regional bloc UNASUR supports political dialogue to ease internal tensions in Venezuela.

Another Latin American leader, Bolivian President Evo Morales, has called on the US to “stop turning the world into a battlefield.”

The United States continues to see Latin America and the Caribbean as its backyard and the people of the region as its slaves, and this is the cause of extreme poverty in the region,” Morales said.

Latin America has been kidnapped by the United States and we no longer want this. We no longer want presidential decrees that call us a threat to their country, we no longer want to be spied on … we want to live in peace.”

The US State Department said it was “disappointed” with the Latin American leaders stance towards the sanctions.

I am disappointed that there were not more countries to defend [the sanctions]. They were not made to harm Venezuelans or the Venezuelan government,” said Roberta Jacobson, the US under-secretary for Latin America, as cited by teleSUR.