Trump says he's open to meeting Maduro then quickly backtracks on Twitter

‘I always say, you lose very little with meetings.’

Graig Graziosi
Monday 22 June 2020 22:34 BST
Iranian fuel tankers arrive in Venezuela

President Donald Trump may be losing interest in the US’s regime change ambitions in Venezuela.

Axios reported that Mr Trump said he’d be interested in meeting with Venezuelan leader Nicholas Maduro and that he was cooling on his support for the self-proclaimed legitimate president of Venezuela Juan Guaidó.

Mr Trump’s comments were made during a Friday interview with Axios.

The president said that he is rarely opposed to meetings, but that up until now he has turned them down.

“I would maybe think about that ... Maduro would like to meet. And I’m never opposed to meetings – you know, rarely opposed to meetings,” Mr Trump said. “I always say, you lose very little with meetings. But at this moment, I’ve turned them down.”

Axios claims a former Trump administration official told reporters that the Venezuelan government reached out to the White House twice in 2017 to express Mr Maduro’s desire to meet with Mr Trump.

Mr Maduro has also publicly expressed interest in meeting with Mr Trump.

According to the unnamed source, officials within the Trump administration were worried Mr Trump would take Mr Maduro up on his offer to meet, particularly after publicly saying in 2018 that he was open to the idea.

In response to the Axios report, Mr Trump took to Twitter to forcefully claim he’d only meet with Mr Maduro if it was to discuss his exit from power.

Conflict in Venezuelan politics boiled over in January 2019 when opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself the acting president of the country following an election that his party deemed was fraudulent.

Mr Guaidó was recognised by nearly 60 countries, including the US, as the legitimate ruler of Venezuela. Mr Maduro’s claim was notably backed by both China and Russia.

The US was supportive of Mr Guaidó’s efforts to oust Mr Maduro, though it appears the young opposition leader has fallen out of favour with Mr Trump.

During the Axios interview, Mr Trump reportedly said that while he didn’t regret backing Mr Guaidó, the opposition leader’s claim wasn’t especially important to him.

“Guaidó was elected. I think that I wasn’t necessarily in favour, but I said -- some people that liked it, some people didn’t. I was OK with it. I don’t think it was -- you know, I don’t think it was very meaningful one way or the other.” Mr Trump said.

If former National Security Adviser John Bolton‘s forthcoming book The Room Where it Happened is to be believed, Mr Trump had far harsher feelings about Mr Guaidó in private.

According to Mr Bolton, Mr Trump saw Mr Maduro as a strong leader and Mr Guaidó as a weak challenger, and took to calling the young opposition leader the “Beto O’Rourke of Venezuela”.

Mr Bolton – who Mr Trump has called the “dumbest human being on Earth” for his support of the Iraq War – claimed the president blamed him for the Venezuelan opposition’s inability to overthrow Mr Maduro.

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