On Monday, the Associated Press reported that the U.S. has opened up secret communications with Venezuela's socialist party boss as members of President Nicolás Maduro's inner circle seek guarantees they won't face retribution if they cede to growing demands to remove him, according to a senior U.S. administration official.
President Donald Trump said the U.S. is "talking to various representatives of Venezuela" during questioning by reporters as he met with Romania's president in the Oval Office Tuesday.
President Trump stated we are talking to various representatives at a very high level.
Donald Trump, U.S. President:
"We are in touch. We are talking to various representatives of Venezuela. We're helping Venezuela as much as we can. We're staying out of it, but we are helping it, and it needs a lot of help. It's an incredible tribute to something bad happening. And the something bad is socialism. And it's amazing because 15 years ago it was one of the wealthiest countries. Now it's one of the poorest countries. It has oil reserves. It has a lot of things going. But it's a very sad thing what's happened. They don't have water. They don't have food. And we are helping a lot. We are talking to the representatives at different levels of Venezuela, yes. I don't want to say who but we are talking at a very high level."
As president of the country’s constituent assembly Diosdado Cabello, 56 is a major power broker inside Venezuela. Cabello, met last month in Caracas with someone who is in close contact with the Trump administration, said the official. A second meeting is in the works but has not yet taken place.
Cabello has also been accused by US officials of being behind massive corruption, drug trafficking even death threats against a sitting US senator.
The administration official said under no circumstances is the U.S looking to prop up Cabello or pave the way for him to substitute Maduro.
The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because they not authorized to discuss the talks, which are still preliminary
Earlier this month U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross talked about a plan to rebuild Venezuela’s dead economy and “reverse the impact of socialism,” at a meeting in Brazil.
“The short term is immediate humanitarian and other relief in the first one to two months, the medium term is work to reverse the impact of socialism in months three through twelve, and the long term effort is to restore sustainable economic growth.”
In less than two decades, Venezuela has been crippled by Socialist policies introduced by Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, have .Food and medicine shortages, hyperinflation, and violent crime have driven more than 3 million Venezuelans out of the country, according to the U.N. refugee agency.