Venezuela

Venezuela’s Maduro hammers Washington but says he’s willing to meet Trump

Under pressure at home and abroad, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on Wednesday used one of the world’s most prominent podiums to accuse the United States and its allies of trying to assassinate him to end his “socialist revolution” and seize Venezuela’s vast oil and mineral wealth.

Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly, Maduro said Washington was scared of Venezuela’s autonomy and independence and determined to stop it all costs.

In particular, Maduro reiterated his claim that the U.S. and Colombia were behind the Aug. 4 explosion of a drone at a military parade in Caracas where he was speaking.

Maduro said that 28 people had been convicted of the “terrorist plot” and that the investigation proved the attack had been financed and planned in the United States and Colombia. Both nations have denied all knowledge and involvement.

Even so, Maduro called the alleged assassination attempt “the most serious attack our country has seen in its political history because of its implications. … They wanted to decapitate the entire high command.”

He also invited the United Nations — and even the FBI — to investigate the attempt “and discover the truth.”

In the 40-minute speech in front of a sparse U.N. audience, Maduro said his country was being attacked economically and politically and also by the media.

In his telling, the country’s deep social and economic crises were being exaggerated in order to pave the way for a military invasion in the name of delivering humanitarian aid.

“We are suffering permanent aggression by the media,” he said. “They are trying to build a dossier to justify an international intervention.”

He said his foes want to seize Venezuela’s riches, which include the world’s largest oil reserves and vast gold deposits.

“The oligarchies of the continent — and those who rule them from Washington — want political control of Venezuela,” he said.

Despite the tough talk and “abysmal” political and ideological differences, Maduro said he would be willing to meet with President Donald Trump to find common ground.

Earlier in the day, Trump said he’d be willing to meet his longtime foe, but the White House said there were no immediate plans for such an encounter.

Maduro’s appearance at the General Assembly took many off guard. Just last week he had said he would likely skip the meeting (as he did last year) due to security concerns.

But as Washington and U.S. allies ratcheted up the pressure on the 55-year-old former bus driver, Maduro announced — via a video on Twitter — that he had arrived in New York Wednesday, saying he was “charged with emotion, passion and truth so that the entire world knows that Venezuela is on its feet.”

Maduro’s arrival came as Venezuela was taking a thrashing. On Tuesday, the U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on four of Maduro’s closest allies, including his wife, Cilia Flores, who joined him on this trip. Then 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.

Maduro called the new measures “illegal” and said that, along with other financial sanctions, were aimed at crippling the country economically — much like the embargo on Cuba.

As a backdrop to the diplomatic maneuvering were rumbles of even more dramatic action. For two days running, Trump said he wouldn’t rule out a military intervention in Venezuela to resolve the nation’s deep economic and humanitarian crisis.

And on Wednesday Colombian President Iván Duque — one of Washington’s closest allies — said “the end of the dictatorship” was the “only possible path” for the country.”

Venezuela was once among the wealthiest nations in Latin America, but the economy has been gutted by falling oil prices, reduced oil output and widespread incompetence and corruption. Draconian price and currency controls — along with U.S. financial sanctions — have also undermined the nation’s ability to import food and medicine.

According to a recent poll, 30.5 percent of Venezuelans often just eat once a day. More than 1.6 million Venezuelans have fled the country since 2015, according to the United Nations, making it one of the largest mass migrations in the Western Hemisphere.

On Wednesday, Maduro insisted that the migration crisis had been “fabricated” as part of a broader economic and political war to topple his administration.

But he said his country would not give up its political or ideological philosophy under pressure.

“They have tried to demonize the Republic of Venezuela,” he said. “We’re a country that hasn’t surrendered and will never surrender.”

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