News and Commentary

Venezuela’s Maduro Says He’s Not Stepping Down But He Might Be ‘Ready To Talk’

Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro says he’s not stepping down, even as the international community pressures him to consider the people of his country and cede control to opposition leader Juan Guaido, but did signal Sunday that he may be “ready to talk” with the United States.

Maduro has come under increasing pressure to call democratic elections for Venezuela, and now faces an “international ultimatem” demanding that he call elections “within eight days,” according to Reuters, as a number of powerful countries now recognize Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader.

In an interview with CNN Turkey, Maduro claimed that “he was open to dialogue and that meeting U.S. President Donald Trump was improbable but not impossible,” Reuters reports.

Maduro then added that he believes the nation’s courts — which he controls — should be the final arbiter of who has power in Venezuela.

“I am not the attorney general. It will be the job of the attorney general, it will be up to the courts to determine the steps to follow and we’ll see. This pertains to the justice system,” he told CNN.

Then, in a full 180-shift, Maduro blamed his country’s woes on American President Donald Trump, adding that he believes he is “the victim of a U.S. conspiracy.”

“Nobody gives us an ultimatum,” he said. “All of Europe is bowing down to Donald Trump. It’s that simple, especially when it comes to Venezuela,” he said. “I think he’s overwhelmed with his domestic problem and, I believe, I think he despises us. He despises all of America and the Caribbean. I think he despises the world.”

“This is the reason for the coup,” he concluded.

The United States, which decided to recognize the country’s National Assembly leader Guaido as Venezuela’s official leader earlier this week, has demanded allies “pick a side” in Venezuela, and to “financially disconnect” from Maduro’s regime until the dictator cedes to his countrymen’s call to step down.

“Now it is time for every other nation to pick a side. … Either you stand with the forces of freedom, or you’re in league with Maduro and his mayhem,” United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the United Nations Security Council on Saturday, according to Reuters World. “We call on all members of the Security Council to support Venezuela’s democratic transition and interim President Guaido’s role.”

So far, Canada and several European countries have heeded the United States’ call. The U.K., Germany, France and Spain — all high-profile members of the United Nations with rights in the Security Council — said they would join the United States’ coalition if, by the end of the eight-day ultimatem, Maduro has not called for free and fair elections.

For now, though, Guaido is operating a government-in-exile, leading his nation in an unofficial-yet-official capacity, having declared Maduro’s re-election in May illegitimate and a violation of the Venezuelan constitution. He is, however, negotiating directly with the United Nations, asking European nations who have joined the United States in recognizing his claim to leadership to prepare aid packages for starving and destitue Venezuelan people — something Maduro has refused to do, claiming instead that there is no humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

Not everyone is happy with the situation, however, and Maduro is actively courting his own coalition of power. Countries with ties to Maduro’s regime, like Russia, China, and Turkey, have all declared their support for the embattled dictator, and are pressuring the United States and Europe to back off a “regime change,” even as Venezuelans pour over their country’s borders in search of food, clean water, medical care, and other basic necessities.