By Daniel Wallis
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela said it was ending efforts to improve ties with Washington after the Obama administration's nominee for envoy to the United Nations vowed to oppose what she called a crackdown on civil society in the "repressive" OPEC nation.
In an echo of the many bust-ups between the two countries during the late Hugo Chavez's 14-year rule, President Nicolas Maduro has demanded an apology and said the United States had no moral right to criticize his government.
The foreign ministry said Samantha Power's remarks had contradicted "in tone and content" what it said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told his Venezuelan counterpart, Elias Jaua, at a rare meeting just last month.
"The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is terminating the process that was started during the conversation in Guatemala, which was aimed at regularizing our diplomatic relations," the ministry said late on Friday in a statement.
Maduro has often clashed with Washington since he narrowly won an election in April that was triggered by the death of his mentor Chavez from cancer.
At times, the former bus driver and union negotiator has appeared to want better ties with the United States, and both Jaua and Kerry had talked positively about their meeting.
But relations have frayed fast since then, with Maduro becoming the world's first leader to offer asylum to Edward Snowden, the former U.S. intelligence contractor wanted by Washington for disclosing details of secret surveillance programs.
During a Senate confirmation hearing this week, Power promised to stand up against "repressive regimes", and said that meant "contesting the crackdown on civil society being carried out in countries like Cuba, Iran, Russia, and Venezuela."
The foreign ministry in Caracas said her comments were "interventionist," and that the United Nations had often recognized Venezuela's "solid system of constitutional guarantees" that ensured its citizens' fundamental rights.
"By contrast, the whole world is constantly expressing its concern over repressive practices carried out by the United States," the ministry said.
"They include the violation of human rights at the illegal prison in Guantanamo, the killing of civilians by drones, and the lamentable persecution unleashed against Edward Snowden."
It said the 30-year-old former National Security Agency contractor was subjected to "the most fierce repression" for exercising his right to denounce U.S. practices "that violate, among others, the right to privacy of all the world's people."
A better relationship could only be built, it added, by practicing "mutual respect and absolute and total recognition of the principles of sovereignty and self-determination."
Maduro has been the most vocal of the three Latin American leaders who have offered sanctuary to Snowden, who has been trapped in a Moscow airport transit zone for almost a month.
Bolivia and Nicaragua have also offered him asylum, but Jaua has said Venezuela can do little to help Snowden as long as he remains stuck behind passport control at the airport.
(Additional reporting by Deisy Buitrago; editing by Jackie Frank)