Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Wednesday he is willing to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump and to speak about anything the U.S. government wants to discuss.
Similarly Trump said on Wednesday he was open to meeting Maduro if it would help the people of Venezuela, but warned that “all options were still on the table” to deal with the crisis.
Maduro said he hoped to arrange a face-to-face meeting with Trump. The White House responded to a similar request last year by saying such a meeting would happen when the country returned to democracy.
Maduro was due to speak at the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations later on Wednesday. “I would certainly be open to it, I’m willing to meet with anybody,” Trump said on Wednesday as he arrived at United Nations headquarters. “We’re going to take care of Venezuela, if he’s here and he wants to meet, it was not on my mind, it was not on my plate, but if I can help people that’s what I’m here for.”
Under Maduro, Venezuela has limited the powers of the opposition-run legislature, jailed opposition politicians and created a parallel congress with unlimited powers. Inflation is running at 200,000 percent and basic foods and medicines, like rice and antibiotics, are increasingly difficult to obtain. That has fueled an exodus of Venezuelans to nearby Latin American countries, where borders are now overwhelmed by Venezuelan migrants.
Maduro says he is the victim of an “economic war” led by U.S.-backed adversaries. He denies limiting political freedoms, insisting opposition leaders have plotted assassination attempts and sought to overthrow him through violent street protests.
The United States imposed new sanctions on Maduro’s wife and several of his top allies on Tuesday. The Trump administration has levied several rounds of sanctions against Maduro’s government since 2017.
The Trump administration and some others in the U.S. government have sent some not-so-subtle hints lately that they are open to a military invasion of Venezuela to oust President Maduro.
“It’s a regime that frankly could be toppled very quickly by the military, if the military decides to do that,” President Trump told reporters on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on Tuesday.
The words seem to offer some encouragement for a coup, which may not come as a surprise because the New York Times published an investigation in early September that found that the Trump administration met secretly with Venezuelan military officers over the last year to discuss an overthrow of Maduro.
Venezuela is in tatters and there have been previous signs that Maduro’s grip is tenuous, including the renegade helicopter pilot earlier this year and the bizarre scene in which drones exploded during a military parade in August near Maduro.
In other words, the threat of a coup has been rising for some time.
But more recently, there have been louder murmurings in Washington and beyond. Bloomberg noted that Fernando Cutz, a former member of the National Security Council, said that a multilateral military invasion of Venezuela might be the best solution. Also, some prominent Venezuelan dissidents and former officials have supported regime change. Florida Senator Marco Rubio said there is a “very strong argument” for such a move. Then there were Trump’s comments in New York at the UN.
Some cautious, but notably receptive comments to an invasion or coup came from officials at the Organization of American States and in the Colombian government, Bloomberg pointed out. Also, Trump is expected to bring in some officials to his government that are notably hawkish in regards to Venezuela.
Reuters/ CNBC/OIL PRICE