On February 14th, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro admitted that his government had held secret meetings with the Trump administration in an interview with AP News.
He also predicted that he would survive the regime change push against him.
In the interview Maduro strongly criticized Trump’s stance against his socialist government, but he still hoped that he would meet the POTUS soon to resolve the crisis triggered by the US recognition of Juan Guaido as Interim President.
According to Maduro, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza had two secret meetings in New York and invited the Special Envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams to visit “privately, publicly or secretly.”
“If he wants to meet, just tell me when, where and how and I’ll be there,” Maduro said.
According to two anonymous Venezuelan officials, the first meeting took place on January 26th and the US was rather hostile during it. According to the sources, the US envoy threatened Venezuela with the deployment of troops and chastising the Venezuelan government for allegedly being in league with Cuba, Russia and Hezbollah.
The second meeting took place on February 11th, 4 days after Abrams said the “time for dialogue with Maduro had long passed.” It wasn’t much friendlier, but the US envoy simply insisted that severe US sanctions would oust Maduro even if the military’s support wouldn’t falter.
During the interview Maduro said that the only thing stopping Venezuela from recovery is for Trump to remove his “infected hand” from the country that sits atop the world’s largest petroleum reserves.
“The infected hand of Donald Trump is hurting Venezuela,” Maduro said.
The sanctions effectively ban all oil purchases by the U.S., which had been Venezuela’s biggest oil buyer until now. Maduro said he will make up for the sudden drop in revenue by targeting markets in Asia, especially India, where the head of state-run oil giant PDVSA was this week negotiating new oil sales.
“We’ve been building a path to Asia for many years,” he said. “It’s a successful route, every year they are buying larger volumes and amounts of oil.”
He praised the continued support of China and Russia, but he was wary that the competition between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump may convert the Venezuela crisis into a high-risk geopolitical fight.
He reiterated his refusal to allow humanitarian aid from the US, calling the supplies “crumbs” after the US administration froze billions of Venezuelan funds from oil revenue and overseas assets.
“They hang us, steal our money and then say ‘here, grab these crumbs’ and make a global show out of it,” said Maduro.
“With dignity we say ‘No to the global show,’” said Maduro. “Whoever wants to help Venezuela is welcome, but we have enough capacity to pay for everything that we need.”
Finally, he concluded by saying that he wouldn’t resign.
“I’m not afraid,” he said, adding that even last year’s attack on him with explosives-laden drones during a military ceremony didn’t shake his resolve. “I’m only worried about the destiny of the fatherland and of our people, our boys and girls….this is what gives me energy.”
AP News also cited an anonymous Washington administration official said that US officials are willing to meet with “former Venezuela officials, including Maduro himself, to discuss their exit plans.”
AP also reported on Colombian President Ivan Duque’s visit to Washington on February 14th.
During it, he urged China to support the opposition in Venezuela, because that would improve China’s role in South America.
Earlier in the day, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York of formation of a group that believes the U.N. Charter’s commitment to non-interference in another country’s affairs is being violated, particularly in the South American nation.
In the next few days, thegroup “will begin a series of actions to raise awareness around the dangers that our peoples currently face,” particularly in Venezuela.
Following that same meeting in the UN Headquarters, Russia’s UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzya said Moscow is “very much concerned that some hotheads may be considering a military action against Venezuela.”
Maduro also spoke to Euronews on February 14th, during the interview he said largely the same things, while defending his election and condemning much of the opposition’s actions. According to him, the actions stem from the “US government inside Venezuela.”
The entire transcript may be found here.
Anelise Borges: “Mr President, thank you very much for speaking to us here on Euronews. Today yours is a country at a crossroads, a country with two presidents. What exactly is happening in Venezuela?”
Nicolás Maduro: “It is not possible to have two presidents in a country. In Venezuela there is only one president under the constitution elected by popular vote, according to Venezuela’s political institutions. And this president, is this humble worker sitting here, Nicolas Maduro Moros. There is a coup currently taking place; it has failed; we have neutralized it. This was instigated by the US government inside Venezuela. The United States used all its political, diplomatic and economic power to try to install a puppet government in Venezuela, something which is unprecedented in our history.”
Anelise Borges: “But the US, the EU and several other Latin American countries have recognised Juan Guaido as the interim President.”
Nicolás Maduro: “This violates all the rules of the United Nations charter that prohibit intervention in internal affairs, violating the very precepts of the Venezuelan constitution. This is part of an attempt to dominate, conquer and create a neocolonial relationship with Venezuela. In any case, who decides the political life of a country, who elects the presidents inside all the countries of the world – popular sovereignty in Venezuela is no exception. They can say whatever they want – Donald Trump’s government, the extremist administration in the White House and its satellite governments – but in Venezuela it is the people who are sovereign and who decide. No foreign government decides what we do here.”
Maduro also said that he had made more than 400 calls to the opposition for dialogue, and that it goes much further than the presumed interim president.
Anelise Borges: “Do you believe in dialogue here in Venezuela as well? Are you available, ready to talk to Mr Juan Guaido for example?”
Nicolás Maduro: “I have made more than 400 calls to the opposition for dialogue. The Opposition goes much further than the man they have put up as the presumed interim president, far beyond. This man is there by circumstance. I am willing and ready for dialogue with the Opposition, as a whole, or with parts of the Opposition whenever, wherever. And I truly believe, Anelise, I’m convinced that the only thing that can help Venezuela this year, and in the years to come, is honest dialogue, with an open agenda, and that we make comprehensive agreements for the good of Venezuela, for the prosperity of the country.”
Maduro further alleged that the humanitarian aid that is being surrounded by hysteria is contaminated and that is another reason it shouldn’t be let in the country.
Anelise Borges: “Contaminated? Why contaminated? Do you have proof that this food is contaminated, this aid is contaminated? You think so?”
Nicolás Maduro: “Well, information has come out of Colombia itself. It’s food that has not been… is full of carcinogenic chemical elements …. that has not had the required tests. And it has already caused several cases of food poisoning in Colombia itself. Now, beyond that they have politicised the concept of humanitarian aid. If you want to help our country, I tell Donald Trump, I tell Mike Pompeo, I tell the governments that are behind this “show”: release the accounts that are held hostage, release the gold that they have stolen and Venezuela has enough resources and everything else to import everything we need. Stop this gruesome “show” of trying to suffocate Venezuela and then offer us only crumbs. We are not anyone’s beggars.”
Meanwhile, in an escalation of absurdity, US National Security Adviser John Bolton accused Maduro of diverting the aid needed in Venezuela to Cuba.
After diverting aid needed badly by Venezuelans to Cuba last week (100 tons), and giving away billions of the Venezuelan people’s wealth to Cuba – now Maduro seeks aid from Cuba and China. All while denying the Venezuelan humanitarian crisis and rejecting aid at the border.
— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) February 15, 2019
He also praised the result of the Global Conference on the crisis in Venezuela.
— OAS (@OAS_official) February 14, 2019
“Today, 25 countries, united at the OAS-hosted Conference on Humanitarian Assistance in Support of Venezuela pledged $100 million in humanitarian assistance. We call on all nations to recognize and support the government of Interim President Guaido,” Bolton tweeted.
US Senator Marco Rubio also had his part to say, claiming that Rep. Ilhan Omar was “an apologist for the murderous Maduro Regime & serial anti-semitic tweeter has no standing to attack anyone on human rights,” in a Tweet.
An apologist for the murderous #MaduroRegime & serial anti-semitic tweeter has no standing to attack anyone on human rights.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) February 14, 2019
Prior to that, he completely disregarded her stance during Elliott Abrams testimony before Congress, saying that he hasn’t “heard a single relevant U.S. policymaker express this view on Venezuela.”
Rubio also alleged that this is indeed what “Maduro is counting on. He thinks if he can hold on long enough the oppositions momentum will wane & international pressure will ease. It’s only been 3 weeks.”
I haven’t heard a single relevant U.S. policymaker express this view on #Venezuela.
But this is exactly the narrative #Maduro is counting on. He thinks if he can hold on long enough the oppositions momentum will wane & international pressure will ease.
It’s only been 3 weeks. https://t.co/S0XgFZhr5a
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) February 13, 2019
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