Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro said he was open for talks with his American counterpart Donald Trump with hopes of improving ties with the US and ending a prolonged political crisis in Venezuela. However, it is uncertain whether the US is willing to do so due to Trump’s hard stance on Venezuela’s socialist government.
During the interview with the Washington Post, Maduro said he was willing to sit down with Trump, suggesting that both countries can benefit from the recovered ties based on mutual respects.
“If there’s respect between governments, no matter how big the United States is, and if there’s a dialogue, an exchange of truthful information, then be sure we can create a new type of relationship,” the former bus driver told the Post.
Maduro also slammed the White House’s hardliners such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former national security adviser John Bolton for supporting economic embargoes that have worsened Venezuela’s financial crisis (triggered by the sharp drop in global oil prices in 2014).
“I believe Mike Pompeo has failed in Venezuela and is responsible for Donald Trump’s failure in his policy toward our country. I think Pompeo lives in a fantasy. He’s not a man with his feet on earth. I think Trump has had terrible advisers on Venezuela. John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, Elliott Abrams have caused him to have a wrong vision,” Maduro added.
How did the US react?
In response to the Post interview with Maduro, Bolton tweeted that negotiations are unlikely, adding that Maduro should be an exile in either Cuba or Russia, among the countries that back the former aide to the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.
“Maduro tells the Washington Post he wants negotiations with the United States? The only negotiations we should have with Maduro are what he wants for lunch on the plane that will take him to permanent exile in Cuba or Russia. Viva Venezuela libre.”
Maduro tells the Washington Post he wants negotiations with the United States? The only negotiations we should have with Maduro are what he wants for lunch on the plane that will take him to permanent exile in Cuba or Russia. Viva Venezuela libre. @JGuaido
— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) January 19, 2020
An Overview of Venezuela’s Crisis
The economic crisis in the oil-rich nation turned into the political discontent due to the growing distrust in the socialist regime. In 2017, mass rallies took place to protest against Maduro’s new constitution, which was seen as a threat to democracy.
In May 2018, Maduro won re-election against his contender, Henri Falcon, meaning that the socialist politician would secure another six-year term in office.
Maduro’s victory divided Venezuela, as well as Latin American nations and the world. Venezuela’s opposition groups and the West accused Maduro of rigging the vote. They called for a fresh election, while countries such as China, Russia, Turkey, and some of the leftist nations such as Bolivia supported Maduro and slammed the West for interfering in Venezuela’s domestic politics.
An unknown politician from the opposing side Juan Guaido became a self-proclaimed president, the US, and its European allies supported. Earlier this month, the 36-year-old man was sworn in as the head of the National Assembly despite being blocked from entering the parliament building.
Will the talks with Trump be a reality?
Maduro’s call for talks with Trump came as no surprise, given that in early 2019 he confirmed that Venezuela’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Jorge Arreaza had secretly met with the US envoy to Caracas in New York. The incumbent expressed his readiness to talk with Trump anytime, anywhere, without specifying more detail.
Two senior Venezuela officials confirmed Maduro’s statement, but they had no authority to talk publicly about the meeting. Both officials admitted that Arreaza and the US envoy Elliott Abrams had met twice at Washington’s request.
In August, Norway mediated the talks between Venezuela’s government and opposition representatives. However, the negotiations faltered.
In the recent interview with the Washington Post, Maduro hoped that he could meet with Trump and asked the POTUS to remove the economic sanctions that have worsened the crisis.
Despite Venezuela’s mismanagement in the oil sector and corrupt government, the US-backed sanctions have killed tens of thousands and halted Venezuelans to access food and health care, according to the Centre for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) report in 2017.
The sanctions are depriving Venezuelans of lifesaving medicines, medical equipment, food, and other essential imports. This is illegal under US and international law and treaties that the US has signed. Congress should move to stop it,” the report said as The Independent quoted.
Unlike Bolivia’s President Evo Morales who resigned following protests against his re-election, Maduro’s position is still strong thanks to the military support he has enjoyed so far.
Trump has yet to respond to Maduro’s call so far. However, as long as the US does not want to recognize Maduro as Venezuela’s legitimate leader and insists on sanctions, the talks (if they take place) unlikely to create peace for Venezuela.