Maduro says he ‘repudiates’ Trump statement on possible Venezuela blockade – Reuters

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FILE PHOTO: Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a ceremony to commemorate the Bicentennial of the Battle in the Vargas Swamp at the National Pantheon in Caracas, Venezuela July 25, 2019. Miraflores Palace/Handout via REUTERS

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Friday said he rejected U.S. President Donald Trump’s statement about a possible blockade of the South American country, adding that its seas would remain “free and independent.”

Maduro said he had asked Venezuela’s ambassador to the United Nations, Samuel Moncada, to denounce the “illegal” threat to the U.N. Security Council.

“All of Venezuela, in a civic-military union, repudiates and rejects the statements of Donald Trump about a supposed quarantine, of a supposed blockade,” Maduro said in a state television broadcast. “A blockade, why would he announce that? It is clearly illegal.”

The United States has applied sanctions and diplomatic pressure to try to get Maduro, whom it accuses of human rights violations and stealing the Venezuelan election last year, to step down.

On Thursday, when asked by a reporter whether he was considering such a measure given involvement by China and Iran in Venezuela, Trump said: “Yes, I am.” He gave no details.

On Friday, a senior U.S. official said Trump’s word on the issue should be taken “very seriously” but that the administration did not want to give away “the element of surprise.”

Reporting by Luc Cohen and Deisy Buitrago; Editing by Leslie Adler and Grant McCool

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