Washington, June 22 (IANS) US President Donald Trump said that he would consider meeting his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro, while suggesting he’s had second thoughts about his decision to recognize Juan Guaido as the legitimate leader of the South American nation, a media report said.
Trump made the remarks in an exclusive Oval Office interview with Axios news website on Friday, which was published on Sunday night.
Asked whether he would meet Maduro, Trump said: “I would maybe think about that… Maduro would like to meet. And I’m never opposed to meetings — you know, rarely opposed to meetings.
Guaido and Trump met at the White House this February after the President invited him to attend his State of the Union address before Congress and praised him as Venezuela’s “legitimate” President.
Trump also indicated he doesn’t have much confidence in Guaido, who has failed to wrest control of the Venezuelan government despite support from the US and dozens of other countries.
Asked whether he regretted his decision to follow his former National Security Adviser John Bolton’s advice on Guaido, who is also the President of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Trump initially said “not particularly,” but then went on to say: “I could have lived with it or without it, but I was very firmly against what’s going on in Venezuela.”
“Guaido was elected. I think that I wasn’t necessarily in favour, but I said — some people that liked it, some people didn’t. I was OK with it. I don’t think it was — you know, I don’t think it was very meaningful one way or the other,” the President told Axios media.
If Trump meets Maduro, it would completely upend his administration’s policy on Venezuela. Top administration officials, including Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who have backed Guaido.
In March, Attorney General Bill Barr announced that the Justice Department was charging Maduro and 13 other Venezuelan officials with narco-terrorism.
The President in August 2019 had also expanded sanctions against the country into an embargo.
Trump’s comments came after excerpts from Bolton’s soon-to-be released book, “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir”, alleged that Trump had been wishy-washy on Guaido from the start, according to a report by The Hill news website.
According to Bolton, Trump said the opposition leader was weak like a “kid,” describing him as the “Beto O’Rourke of Venezuela”.
Bolton also alleged that Trump said it would be “cool” to invade Venezuela, and that the South American country was “really part of the United States”.