Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro says he is ready to meet with President Donald Trump, just days after Washington hit the ruling socialist regime with sanctions.
Speaking Thursday to the newly-installed Constituent Assembly, an all-powerful legislative body packed with Maduro loyalists, the socialist leader called on Venezuela’s foreign minister to arrange a phone call or face-to-face or meeting with Trump at the United Nations General Assembly in September.
Maduro’s request comes after the U.S. levied sanctions on eight top Venezuelan officials for violating human rights and democratic norms. The Trump administration also targeted Maduro himself, branding the Venezuelan president a “dictator” and freezing all of his assets subject to U.S. jurisdiction.
Under the threat of further sanctions against Venezuela’s oil industry, Maduro suggested he would consider making a deal with Trump.
“If he (Trump) is so interested in Venezuela, here I am,” he said during his address to the assembly. “Mr. Donald Trump, here is my hand.”
The overture signaled a different approach for the defiant Maduro, who has delighted in publicly attacking the U.S. — and Trump in particular — for supposedly instigating protests against the regime. After the Treasury Department announced direct sanctions on Maduro last week, he poked fun at Trump for becoming president through the electoral college but losing the popular vote in the November election.
“In the United States, it’s possible to become president with 3 million votes less than your opponent. What a tremendous democracy!” Maduro told cheering supporters.
“I don’t take orders from the empire,” he added. “Keep up your sanctions, Donald Trump!”
The Maduro regime is under increasing economic and diplomatic pressure as the political crisis in Venezuela gets worse. Not only is the country almost completely isolated from world financial markets, it has been forced to cede control of some if its immense oil reserves to Russia in exchange for loans and cash bailouts.
Thus far, Washington has stopped shot of hitting the Venezuelan energy sector with sanctions. The U.S. is the top importer of Venezuelan oil, and some officials worry that sanctions could hurt U.S. energy consumers and make life even worse for average Venezuelan citizens, who are experiencing widespread food shortages and the world’s highest inflation rate.
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