Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido will meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a regional counter-terrorism meeting in Bogota in Colombia today, according to two people close to Guaido.
Colombian President Ivan Duque said on Twitter that he would meet with Guaido before that and Guaido would today attend the conference.
Spokespeople for Guaido and the US State Department had no immediate comment.
Guaido has not left Venezuela since February, when he defied a court-imposed travel ban and travelled to neighbouring Colombia to organise a US-backed effort to transport aid cargoes back across the border, which was blocked by troops loyal to President Nicolas Maduro.
The United States, along with some 50 other nations, has recognised Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate head-of-state since last January when he invoked the constitution as head of congress and declared Maduro an usurper.
But a year on Maduro remains in power, despite a US campaign to cut off his government’s sources of financing by imposing sanctions on Venezuela’s vital oil sector, and Guaido’s attempts to encourage the military to rebel.
Earlier this month, Venezuela’s ruling Socialist Party seized control of the National Assembly and swore in an allied politician who defected from Guaido’s camp.
Opposition lawmakers then voted in Guaido for a second term as congress chief in a separate session.
Pompeo at the time congratulated Guaido for his re-election and condemned “the failed efforts of the former Maduro regime to negate the will of the democratically elected National Assembly.”
Maduro accuses Guaido of being a coup-mongering puppet controlled by the White House.
In an interview published by the Washington Post on Saturday, Maduro said the Trump administration had underestimated his staying power and he “didn’t care” about sanctions.
He said he was still comfortably in charge and open to direct negotiations with the US.
The interview was Maduro’s first with a major US outlet since February of last year, when he abruptly ejected all Univision journalists from Venezuela.
“If there’s respect between governments, no matter how big the United States is, and if there’s a dialogue, an exchange of truthful information, then be sure we can create a new type of relationship,” Maduro told the Post.
The socialist leader said he was ready to hold talks with the US to negotiate an end to sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump intended to throttle the South American country’s oil industry and force Maduro from power.
Maduro indicated that, if Trump were to lift sanctions, US oil companies could benefit immensely from Venezuela’s oil.
“A relationship of respect and dialogue brings a win-win situation. A confrontational relationship brings a lose-lose situation. That’s the formula,” Maduro said.
Opposition leader Guaido has called for a new presidential election to be held, on the grounds that Maduro is an “illegitimate” president because his 2018 re-election was tainted by fraud.
Oil-rich Venezuela’s economy is crumbling under Maduro’s rule, and millions have fled the country.
But despite the humanitarian catastrophe and biting US sanctions, Maduro maintains power with the support of the military as well as Russia, China and Cuba.
While speaking to the Post, Maduro also expressed willingness to talk with Guaido, but appeared to dismiss his opponent’s main demand that he step down.
Norway has mediated talks between Maduro’s and Guaido’s representatives, but the meetings broke down in August.
The US in early January threw its support behind negotiations in Venezuela, saying talks could establish a transitional government, lead to fresh elections and bring an end to the country’s long-running political crisis.
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