US President Donald Trump says he would consider meeting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and indicated he is not entirely confident in the country’s opposition leader.
A power struggle has been raging in Venezuela since Juan Guaido declared himself acting president in January 2019 in a bid to overthrow Maduro, who started a second term following elections boycotted by the opposition and internationally dismissed as fraudulent.
Nearly 60 countries – including the United States – recognised Guaido, but China and Russia backed Maduro – whose regime has been hit by punishing sanctions from Washington.
But despite tensions, Trump told news site Axios he would be open to a meeting.
“I would maybe think about that … Maduro would like to meet. And I’m never opposed to meetings – you know, rarely opposed to meetings,” the president said.
“I always say, you lose very little with meetings. But at this moment, I’ve turned them down.”
Ties between Washington and Maduro’s socialist government frayed even further in May when Venezuela detained 52 alleged mercenaries, including two retired members of the US military, accusing them of orchestrating a maritime “invasion” with American support.
Washington denied any involvement.
But despite his government’s consistent backing of the opposition leader, Axios reported during the interview Trump “indicated he doesn’t have much confidence in Guaido”.
The president said he was “firmly against what’s going on in Venezuela,” but – referring to the recognition of Guaido – added: “I was okay with it … I don’t think it was very meaningful one way or the other.”
The interview came as the White House was handling the fallout from explosive claims in a book by Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton, who was a key player on many diplomatic fronts.
According to excerpts published by Axios, Bolton wrote that Trump “thought Guaido was ‘weak’ as opposed to Maduro, who was ‘strong’.”
The president also called Guaido “the Beto O’Rourke of Venezuela”, according to the Bolton excerpt, referring to the Democratic presidential candidate who dropped out early in the 2020 US presidential race and was repeatedly mocked by Trump.
Trump slammed Bolton as a “nut job” who may be the “dumbest human being on Earth” over his backing of the US-led Iraq war in 2003.