Venezuela clamps down on opposition politicians

Posted August 12, 2017

Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro said Thursday that he wants a meeting with President Donald Trump - the same man he has ridiculed as an imperial magnate and blasted for USA sanctions against officials in his socialist administration.

"The foreign minister should enter into negotiations to arrange [my] personal meeting with Donald Trump or a phone conversation with Donald Trump", Maduro said in parliament, as quoted by the Panorama newspaper.

Although Maduro's first reaction on the sanctions was critical, later he expressed willingness to normalize relations with the USA, voicing hope that they will base on dialogue and mutual respect.

He said he had also given orders, "if it can happen", for a face-to-face to be organized in NY on September 20 when heads of state and government from around the world gather for a UN General Assembly.

"If he (Trump) is so interested in Venezuela, here I am", he said in his three-hour address to the 545 member assembly.

The sanctions will freeze USA assets of the officials targeted, ban them from travel to the United States, and prohibit Americans from doing business with them.

The offer came after the USA last week imposed sanctions on Maduro, who the Trump administration has labeled "a dictator".

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The Venezuelan Constituent Assembly has ratified Nicolas Maduro as head of state and of the government, as well as the "commander-in-chief of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces" (FANB).

The Trump administration also targeted Maduro himself, branding the Venezuelan president a "dictator" and freezing all of his assets subject to US jurisdiction.

Washington said the new Constituent Assembly, which was sworn in on August 4th, was created "through an undemocratic process instigated by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government to subvert the will of the Venezuelan people".

On Wednesday, a fifth opposition mayor in Venezuela was removed from his post. The former student activist had been one of the most-prominent leaders of four months of anti-government protests that have left at least 124 people dead and hundreds more injured or jailed.

Met by rubber bullets, water cannon and tear gas fired by the National Guard, the protesters say the crisis demands an early presidential election that they are sure Maduro would lose.

The body has usurped the powers of the national assembly, and is tasked with rewriting the south American country's constitution. Since its installation Friday, the assembly has already ousted the nation's outspoken chief prosecutor, established a "truth commission" expected to target Maduro's foes and passed decrees pledging "support and solidarity" with the unpopular president.

We would certainly urge them to try because a similar effort, in which Venezuela played an important part, helped end Colombia's half-century-long war with leftist rebels a year ago, a conflict that seemed much more intractable than Venezuela's.