17:57 GMT19 February 2020
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    Political Crisis in Venezuela (578)

    Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro made his first major interview with a US-based media outlet, almost a year after he canceled a Univision interview session in February 2019 and expelled its journalists from the country.

    Maduro, 57, in a new interview with The Washington Post, promised high profits in Venezuela for US oil giants if the Trump administration cancels tough economic restrictions earlier imposed on Caracas and normalizes diplomatic relations between the two governments.

    “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 [...] A relationship of respect and dialogue brings a win-win situation. A confrontational relationship brings a lose-lose situation. That’s the formula”, Maduro suggested to The Washington Post.

    Commenting on the ongoing political crisis in Venezuela, Maduro denied suggestions by Western officials that his government offered the Venezuelan political opposition a deal that included a snap presidential election during 2019 talks brokered by Norway that subsequently collapsed.

    The constitutionally-elected Venezuelan president avowed that he remains willing to negotiate with self-proclaimed interim President Juan Guaido, even as the former dismissed the opposition’s key demand; that Maduro steps down in favor of a transitional government that will renovate the supreme court and shepherd national election councils to call for new elections, according to The Washington Post.

    “Guaido is responsible for having lost the National Assembly [...] He and his mistakes. Don’t blame me now. He’s the one that now has to answer to the United States”, Maduro said, cited by The Washington Post.

    Maduro dismissed suggestions that Venezuela is becoming increasingly isolated in the international petrochemical community.

    “Do you want me to tell you the truth? I don’t care even a little bit about what Europe does, or about what the US does. We do not care at all. We only care about what we do […] No matter how many thousand sanctions, they won’t stop us, or Venezuela”, Maduro said, referring to a Western-backed embargo against the Venezuelan oil industry, while pointing out that Caracas has alliances with Havana and Moscow.

    The Venezuelan president also dismissed earlier claims by the Trump administration that Russia's oil giant Rosneft was allegedly processing some 70 percent of Venezuelan crude oil, instead suggesting that the amount remains at almost 20 percent, according to WaPo.

    Maduro revealed in his interview that he made several attempts to contact US President Donald Trump. The Washington Post broke the news earlier that Trump's lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, was present during a phone call that Maduro had in late 2018 with then-US House Representative Peter Sessions. Maduro said that he did not hear Giuliani’s voice, but knew that Giuliani was on the line.

    “Of course at the moment, his closeness as Trump’s lawyer was clear [...] We knew he would be able to get him the message. At this point I don’t know because of all that’s happening with Ukraine and the impeachment”, Maduro said, cited by The Washington Post.

    Maduro also suggested that Trump is being misled by his aides, and expressed puzzlement as to why Trump chose North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un, instead of him, for high-profile talks.

    “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 said, cited by The Washington Post.

    Maduro addressed speculation on a possible US naval blockade of Venezuela - news from 2019 broken by US media, citing sources within The Trump administration.

    “I think that wouldn’t be good for anyone, least of all for the US [...] It would create a lot of tension in the whole Caribbean and it would be bad for the interests of all the governments that are part of that community. I hope it doesn’t happen”, Maduro said.

    The beleaguered president admitted that if talks with Washington were launched, it would be difficult to conduct free and fair elections.

    “I think we have to think more about the big picture [...] The relations in five, 10 years. The relations for the rest of the 21st century”, Maduro said.

    Maduro's goverment - supported by Russia and China, among other nations - has accused Washington of trying to overthrow him as a means of gaining access to Venezuela's vast oil assets - said to be the largest in the world. The embattled leader dubbed rival Guaido a "Washington puppet", and noted that the latter is openly bolstered by the Trump administration.

    The US imposed several rounds of tough economic restrictions targeting Venezuela's energy sector and senior officials, thus further suffocating a deplorable economy in a nation that has long seen hyper-inflation and infrastructure decay blamed by Caracas on earlier US economic sanctions.

    After several months of apparent lull, political unrest took another turn in early January, after the National Assembly elected Luis Parra to replace opposition leader Guaido as its speaker. The latter was barred from attending the vote, as he was unable to gain access to the cordoned-off parliament building.

    Political Crisis in Venezuela (578)


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    talks, United States, Juan Guaido, Nicolas Maduro
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