Maduro claims Venezuela has engaged in secret talks with U.S. envoy – The Washington Post


Embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro claims that officials from his administration met with President Trump’s envoy to Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, and extended an invitation for him to visit Venezuela, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza has met with the Trump administration twice in New York, Maduro said, and invited Abrams, the U.S.-based envoy, to visit the country “privately, publicly, or secretly.”

“If he wants to meet, just tell me when, where and how and I’ll be there,” Maduro told the AP, adding that he also hopes to meet President Trump.

A State Department spokesman would not confirm that Maduro extended an invitation to Abrams but told The Post in an email that “it should come as no surprise that State Department officials exchange opinions with a wide variety of foreign interlocutors, especially while we continue to take all steps to ensure the safety and security of our Embassy personnel on the ground in Caracas.”

[The massacre Trump’s envoy to Venezuela wants us to forget]

Venezuela has been submerged in a worsening political crisis since last month, when opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself interim president. The United States and other foreign powers have recognized Guaidó as the leader of Venezuela even as Maduro, who won reelection in a widely contested vote last May, refuses to step down.

The recent political turmoil emerged after years of economic crisis, including hyperinflation that made the costs of basic goods soar. Food and medicine were soon out of reach for many Venezuelans. Millions of people have fled the country in recent years, and those who are left are now in the midst of a humanitarian crisis.

Maduro blamed Trump’s “infected hand” for Venezuela’s woes, telling the AP that U.S. sanctions on Venezuela’s once-thriving oil industry are the reason for the country’s troubles.

Maduro’s administration is refusing to allow humanitarian aid donated through the opposition to enter the country, even as millions of people go hungry. This week, his government announced that they would soon receive 933 tons of “health products” from China and Cuba.

In the AP interview, Maduro said the opposition-organized aid, which includes contributions from the United States, amounts to “crumbs.”

“They hang us, steal our money and then say ‘here, grab these crumbs’ and make a global show out of it,” he said, adding that he is not “afraid” of what may come next. “I’m only worried about the destiny of the fatherland and of our people, our boys and girls. … This is what gives me energy.”

John Hudson contributed to this report.

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