Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has announced that he is seeking a “personal conversation” with US President Donald Trump.
Maduro made the comments after US imposed harsh sanctions on the Latin American nation.
Despite having world's largest proven oil deposits, many Venezuelans have lived in abject poverty. The former President, Hugo Chavez, was in office from 1999 to 2013. In that period, billions of dollars were spent in generous social programs. After his death, his successor, Nicolas Maduro took office. There has been a rise in inflation and a shortage of basic goods. A drop in oil prices had added to the administration’s problems.
From 2014, there have been recurrent protests against the government. Violence has been on the rise and over 120 have died since April 2017 due to these protests.
On July 30, there was a vote to institute a powerful law-making body called the constituent assembly. Maduro has said that this body will help solve the economic crisis in the nation but critics have warned that this could lead to a dictatorship. The body comprises of 545 seats and has the power to re-write the country’s 1999 constitution.
The election for the constituent assembly was mired by violence and controversy. The government claimed that over 8 million votes were cast but the opposition has said that the numbers have been doctored. The voting company that assisted in the election has come forward noting that the final tally has been inflated by at least a million votes.
The election has also been condemned by the international community. Many countries including the US and Colombia have said that they would not recognize the veracity of the results. The US also has imposed sanctions which would affect the country’s energy sector. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called Maduro a "dictator who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people."
Maduro has defiantly stood by the election and its result. He has repeatedly criticized and mocked the US President. In an earlier televised speech, he said, “Enough meddling ... Go home, Donald Trump. Get out of Venezuela. Get your dirty hands out of here."
Maduro’s latest comments about seeking dialogue with the US came during a speech in front of the new constituent assembly. He said, “If he (Trump) is so interested in Venezuela, here I am. Mr Donald Trump, here is my hand.” He added, “We will never cede to foreign powers.”
Trump and Maduro attending the UN General Assembly in New York next month.
Our assessment is that in the current climate, it is unlikely that Trump and Maduro would be able to conduct a constructive bilateral dialogue that will resolve the crisis. Both leaders are known for their populist rhetoric and neither would want to concede power to the other by stepping down.