Venezuela’s Maduro makes surprise visit to United Nations

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro made a surprise landing in New York City Wednesday, according to a brief video posted by his account on Twitter, saying he was “bringing the truth about Venezuela” to the United Nations General Assembly — and raising expectations that he might meet with President Donald Trump.

Maduro, accompanied by his wife, Cilia Flores, is seen in the video in the presidential aircraft, and says he’s landing in New York City to attend the event.

“I’m arriving charged with emotion, passion and truth so that the entire world knows that Venezuela is on its feet,” he said.

The announcement came as a surprise, as just last week Maduro said he would likely miss the event for fear that he might be assassinated.

Even so, the South American nation, and its ongoing humanitarian crisis, have been central themes at the annual meeting, which draws leaders from around the world.

On Wednesday, Trump, once again, suggested that military force shouldn’t be ruled out in dealing with Maduro. But he also said he would meet with the Venezuelan leader in New York if it would help the Venezuelan people.

Before Maduro’s announcement, the White House had said there were no immediate plans for an encounter between the bitter rivals.

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On Tuesday the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on four Maduro allies, including Flores and the ministers of defense and communications. In all, about 70 current and former officials, including Maduro, have been slapped with sanctions that prohibit U.S. citizens and residents from doing business with them and freeze their U.S. assets.

Also on Wednesday, the presidents of Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Chile, Paraguay and Peru asked the International Criminal Court to investigate Maduro and his officials for crimes against humanity dating back to 2014 — the year nationwide protests sparked a government crackdown.

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Venezuela’s neighbors blame the country’s political, economic and social unrest for sparking the exodus of more than 2.4 million people in recent years. Maduro has said the migration crisis is being exaggerated as part of a larger campaign to topple his administration.

Maduro first came to power in 2013 after the death of his predecessor, Hugo Chávez, and he was reelected last year in a vote that was questioned by the international community.

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