maduro elliot abrams
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro told AP on Thursday that his foreign minister has held secret talks in New York with the US special envoy to Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, and predicted he would remain in power despite a global campaign to unseat him.

The meetings came at the request of the United States according to two Venezuelan officials who were not authorized to discuss the meetings publicly.

The first meeting, held on Jan. 26, was described as hostile - with the US envoy threatening to deploy troops in Venezuela, while chastising the Maduro regime for being in league with Cuba, Russia and Hezbollah. The second meeting, held on Monday, was "less tense," even though it came just four days after Abrams warned that the "time for dialogue with Maduro had long passed." Abrams insisted in the second meeting that severe US sanctions would result in Maduro's ouster even if the Venezuelan military was on his side.

Maduro told AP that he hopes to meet with President Trump to resolve the situation, while Abrams has given no indication whether the US is considering easing up on its demand that Maduro leave office.
While harshly criticizing U.S. President Donald Trump's confrontational stance toward his socialist government, Maduro said Thursday he hopes to meet the U.S. president soon to resolve a crisis over Venezuela's presidency. The U.S., for its part, said it recognizes Maduro's political opponent Juan Guaido as the rightful leader.

Maduro said that during two hushed meetings in New York, his foreign minister invited the Washington-based special envoy for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, to visit "privately, publicly or secretly."

"If he wants to meet, just tell me when, where and how, and I'll be there," Maduro said without providing more details. He said both New York meetings lasted several hours. -CBC
US officials are willing to meet with "former Venezuela officials, including Maduro himself, to discuss their exit plans," according to a senior Trump administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Word of the secret talks comes as Venezuela continues its downward spiral of political chaos, following a US demand that Maduro step down a month into his second term deemed illegitimate by Venezuela's Congress - which named his opponent, 35-year-old Juan Guaido, interim president. Guaido's ascension has been supported by the United States and dozens of Latin American and European countries which share his goal of removing Maduro.

Venezuela has been suffering under severe shortages of food and medicine which have forced millions to leave the oil-rich socialist country.

Maduro, meanwhile, says all that Venezuela needs is for President Trump to remove his "infected hand" from the country - noting that US sanctions on the Venezuelan oil industry are to blame for his country's woes. Politico notes that "shortages and hyperinflation that economists say topped 1 million percent long predates Trump's recent action."
The sanctions effectively ban all oil purchases by the U.S., which had been Venezuela's biggest oil buyer until now. Maduro said he will make up for the sudden drop in revenue by targeting markets in Asia, especially India, where the head of state-run oil giant PDVSA was this week negotiating new oil sales.

"We've been building a path to Asia for many years," he said. "It's a successful route, every year they are buying larger volumes and amounts of oil." -Politico
The embattled Venezuelan president also cited continued support from China and Russia, the latter of which has provided loans, weapons and oil investments over the years. Maduro suggests that backing from Russian President Vladimir Putin could turn the situation into a serious geopolitical fight between the US and Russia.

Maduro says he won't step down as a way to defuse the standoff - calling boxes of US-supplied humanitarian aid sitting unused in warehouses on the border "crumbs," after billions in liquid assets were frozen by the Trump administration.

"They hang us, steal our money and then say 'here, grab these crumbs' and make a global show out of it," said Maduro. "With dignity we say 'No to the global show.' Whoever wants to help Venezuela is welcome, but we have enough capacity to pay for everything that we need."

"I'm not afraid," said Maduro - adding that last year's failed explosive drone attack didn't shake his resolve. "I'm only worried about the destiny of the fatherland and of our people, our boys and girls....this is what gives me energy."