US President Donald Trump and his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro said Tuesday that talks between senior officials were underway, as the South American country struggles under the weight of US sanctions.
“We are in touch. We’re talking to various representatives of Venezuela,” Trump told reporters.
He declined to say which officials were engaged in the talks, stating only that “we are talking at a very high level,” and adding that “representatives at different levels of Venezuela” were involved.
Maduro confirmed the talks, stating that “for months there has been contact between senior officials of the United States, of Donald Trump, and the Bolivarian government that I preside over,” in a message broadcast on radio and television.
“Just as I have sought dialogue in Venezuela, I have sought a way in which President Donald Trump really listens to Venezuela,” Maduro said.
Earlier this month, Maduro blamed Washington when he canceled scheduled talks with his country’s opposition led by Juan Guaido, the speaker of the National Assembly who proclaimed himself acting president in January.
The US has been pressuring Maduro through sanctions into acquiescing to opposition demands to step down and hold new presidential elections, something he has steadfastly refused to do.
“We’re staying out of it, but we are helping it, and it needs a lot of help,” Trump said of Venezuela.
“It’s an incredible tribute to something bad happening, and the something bad is socialism,” he said.
The United States is one of more than 50 countries to have recognized Guaido as interim president.
Oil-rich but cash-poor Venezuela is suffering one of the worst economic crises in its history, with a quarter of its 30 million population in need of aid, according to the United Nations.
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