Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro reportedly said Thursday that he would skip the trip to the United States. In a speech, cited by Reuters, Maduro said Executive Vice President Delcy Rodriguez would represent Venezuela at the meeting.
Last week, Maduro announced that large-scale military exercises would be held near the Colombian border from 10-28 September. According to Maduro, Venezuela is deploying air defense systems at its border with Colombia for the period of the drills. The president stressed that the country was boosting its forces in the area amid the threat of Bogota’s possible aggression against Caracas.
Relations between Caracas and Bogota have worsened amid a political crisis that erupted earlier this year in Venezuela. In January, the opposition tried to overthrow Maduro in a bid to install its leader Juan Guaido. The attempt failed, but the unrest continued, with Maduro accusing Bogota of being behind the plot to overthrow and assassinate him.
Colombia has denied the claims. However, Bogota, alongside the United States and some other countries, endorsed Guaido as Venezuela's interim president. At the same time, China and Russia were among the states that supported constitutionally-elected Maduro as the only legitimate leader of Venezuela.
Maduro has called Guaido a US puppet and accused Washington of orchestrating a coup to force a change of government in Venezuela and claim the country's resources.
The United States has sanctioned numerous individuals in Maduro's government, including senior executives of the state-owned oil and natural gas company known by the Spanish acronym PDVSA, in a campaign to force Maduro from office. Moreover, Washington has imposed tough trade restrictions against Venezuela and frozen some of the country’s assets.
Media outlet Axios reported in August, citing five current and former US officials, that US President Donald Trump had privately suggested multiple times for at least a year and a half to national security officials that his country should station US Navy ships around Venezuela to prevent goods from entering and exiting the Latin American nation.