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Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro called for direct talks with the U.S., saying its support for opposition leader Juan Guaido has failed.
In a rare interview with the Washington Post published Saturday, Maduro mocked U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and said former national security adviser John Bolton and Elliott Abrams, the state department’s special envoy for Venezuela, had given President Donald Trump bad advice.
Trump is being fed “fake reports,” Maduro told the Post.
As an incentive for talks, Maduro dangled the prospect of access to the nation’s oil industry. Venezuela has the largest known oil reserves in the world. Maduro denied Russian oil major Rosneft is processing 70% of Venezuelan output, putting the number closer to 20%.
Dialog with the U.S. would be a “win-win,” while continued confrontation would mean a “lose-lose” situation, he said. According to Maduro, there could be a bonanza waiting for U.S. oil companies were Trump to lift sanctions.
Maduro’s interview with the Post comes almost a year to the day after the U.S. recognized Guaido as the country’s legitimate head of state on Jan. 23 last year. More than 50 other countries, including most in South America, also backed Guaido, while Cuba and Russia maintained strong support for Maduro.
Pompeo is due to meet Guaido tomorrow at an anti-terrorism conference in Colombia then embark on a trip that will include the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. While more than 50 countries recognize Guaido as the legitimate president of Venezuela he has struggled to translate that support into concrete gains against a regime that remains solidly entrenched.
In April of last year, Guaido tried to lead an uprising against Maduro. It failed after most of the armed forces refused to take part. Maduro told the Post he had known about the plot weeks in advance after allies who had been approached by the opposition betrayed the plan.
Maduro wants to hold new elections for the National Assembly this year in an attempt to further erode Guaido’s power base and legitimacy. His supporters have already blocked Guaido’s re-election as president of the assembly earlier this month.
(Updates with Guaido travel plans in seventh paragraph)
--With assistance from Alex Vasquez.
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