Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro revealed on Thursday during an interview with The Associated Press that his foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, met in secret in New York with the special US envoy for Venezuela, even while the government of President Donald Trump has publicly supported the opposition’s efforts to overthrow him.
“Although he criticized Trump’s belligerent stance toward his socialist government, Maduro said he hopes to hold a meeting with the US president to resolve a crisis stemming from the recognition the US government gave to opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the president in charge of Venezuela,” Reports AP.
Maduro said that, while in New York, “his chancellor invited US special envoy Elliott Abrams to visit Venezuela ‘in private, in public, in secret,” he said in the interview. “If he wants to meet, let him say when, where and how, and I’ll go,” Maduro said without providing more details.
He said that the two meetings between Arreaza and Abrams, held in New York, lasted several hours.
AP also revealed that a senior official in Washington, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said US officials are willing to meet with “former Venezuelan officials, including Maduro himself.” Although the official alleged, according to the AP, that the meetings seek to discuss President Maduro’s “exit plans,” he has reported that his plans to enter into a dialogue with the United States seek to enable the nation to continue its life in peace and without foreign interference.
According to the agency, two Venezuelan high officials said that the two meetings between Abrams and Chancellor Jorge Arreaza took place at the request of the United States. Officials were not authorized to discuss the meetings publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The first meeting that took place on January 26 was described as hostile by the officials, because in it the US envoy threatened Venezuela with the deployment of troops and reproached the Venezuelan government for allegedly being an accomplice of Cuba, Russia and the Hezbollah guerrilla group.
When they met again this week, on February 11, the atmosphere was less tense, even though the meeting came four days after Abrams had declared that “the time to dialogue with Maduro has long since passed.” During that meeting, Abrams insisted that tough US sanctions would overthrow Maduro even if the Venezuelan Army continued to back him.
The agency states, “Abrams gave no sign that the United States was willing to withdraw the demand that Maduro resign. However, the Venezuelans considered the meetings as a sign that there is room for dialogue with the Americans despite the harsh rhetoric that comes out of Washington.”
With a sometimes conciliatory tone and combative in others, Maduro said in the interview that the only thing that Venezuela needs to recover is that Trump takes the hands of the country, which has the largest oil reserves in the world. He denounced that US sanctions against the oil industry are what caused the hardships of Venezuelans, although the shortage of products and the hyperinflation that economists say exceeded one million percent began long before the measures adopted by Trump.
“The infected hand of Donald Trump harms Venezuela,” Maduro said.
The sanctions prohibit all purchases of crude oil by the United States, which has been Venezuela’s main oil customer to date. Maduro said he will compensate for the sudden drop in revenues by focusing on markets in Asia, specifically in India, where the director of state oil company PDVSA was this week to negotiate new crude sales.
“We have been building the Asian route for many years,” he said. “It’s a successful route and the Asian route demands more and more volumes and quantities of oil.”
He also mentioned the continued support of China and especially Russia, which has been one of the largest suppliers of loans, weapons and oil investments in recent years. Maduro said that the support of Vladimir Putin carries the risk of turning the current crisis into a geopolitical struggle between the United States and Russia, similar to some of the most dangerous friction of the Cold War.
In the midst of increasing domestic and foreign pressure, Maduro said he will not give up as a way to mitigate tensions.
It considered that the boxes of humanitarian aid sent by the United States that are in a warehouse in the border with Colombia are simple “crumbs” after the American government froze billions of dollars of the Venezuelan oil revenues and of its assets in the Foreign. “They hang us, they steal our money and then they tell us: ‘Hold on, here are crumbs’ and they make a world show,” said Maduro.” Venezuela, with dignity, says: ‘no to the world show’. No. Anyone who wants to help Venezuela, welcome, but we are able to pay for everything we need.”
Maduro downplayed his label of “dictator”, attributing it to a media campaign driven by Western ideology to undermine the socialist revolution that began the late Hugo Chávez.
“I do not have fear,” he said, adding that not even last year’s attack against him with drones laden with explosives during a military ceremony made a dent in his determination. “I am worried, yes, but because of the destiny of our country, the destiny of our people, the destiny of our children … and that makes me full of energy.”
Translated by JRE