Venezuela’s socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro expressed openness to meeting President Donald Trump “respectfully” on Monday, a response to Trump saying in an interview over the weekend that a meeting with Maduro was possible.
Maduro has not been legitimately the president of Venezuela since January 2019, when his last term ended. He has refused to step aside for the legitimate president, Juan Guaidó, and retains control of the nation’s military, which makes it impossible for Guaidó to exercise any of his presidential powers aside from appointing ambassadors abroad.
President Trump recognized Guaidó as the rightful president of Venezuela at the time, as did most countries in the free world. Guaidó attended Trump’s State of the Union Address this year as a special guest of the president, which Maduro branded an “offensive and disrespectful … circus spectacle.”
Guaidó became president as a member of the Popular Will political party, a member of the Socialist International. He has since asked to be relieved of party duties to focus on attempting to exercise presidential power. Unlike Guaidó, who is a “democratic socialist,” Maduro is a “Bolivarian socialist.”
Despite Maduro’s illegitimacy, the fact that he controls the day-to-day operations of running Venezuela appears to have led Trump to say in an interview published in Washington website Axios on Sunday that he would consider meeting with Maduro.
“I would maybe think about that. … Maduro would like to meet. And I’m never opposed to meetings — you know, rarely opposed to meetings,” Trump said. “I always say, you lose very little with meetings. But at this moment, I’ve turned them down.”
On Guaidó, Trump said he was “OK with” recognizing his legitimacy but he did not think it was “very meaningful one way or the other.”
Trump’s remarks follow a tenure in which he has met with some of the world’s most reviled communist mass murders on multiple occasions, including North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and Chinese dictator Xi Jinping. Both are close allies of the Maduro regime. The meetings Kim have not resulted in any benefits to Pyongyang – North Korea threatened to “end” the United States with nuclear weapons this week – and the second meeting ended with Trump abruptly walking out, claiming the North Koreans were too intransigent. In contrast, China has benefited from White House discussions with a “phase-one” trade deal that appears intact despite the economic destruction caused by the Chinese coronavirus pandemic.
In remarks to the Venezuelan News Agency (AVN), a state-run outlet, Maduro said that he would consider meeting with Trump while reminding the world that he had already met with Trump’s electoral rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
“My response is that, just like I met with Biden and we spoke at length in a respectful manner, something that was recorded at its time, also at the moment necessary I am willing to converse respectfully with President Donald Trump,” Maduro said.
Biden met with Maduro in January 2015 in Brazil, attending the inauguration of socialist President Dilma Rousseff. Rousseff was later impeached and removed from office for corruption; her downfall led to the election of hard-right President Jair Bolsonaro. Photos of Biden and Maduro meeting showed the two smiling and shaking hands, apparently chatting in a friendly manner.
Despite Biden’s apparently cordial meeting with Maduro, which did not appear to result in any policy that benefitted the Venezuelan people, Biden attacked Trump for his remarks this weekend, claiming he would, instead of meeting Maduro, “stand with the Venezuelan people.”
Trump talks tough on Venezuela, but admires thugs and dictators like Nicolas Maduro.
As President, I will stand with the Venezuelan people and for democracy. https://t.co/eUt28UxyXS
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) June 22, 2020
Trump’s comment about potentially meeting Maduro triggered some confusion and outrage among Venezuelan-Americans, which appears to have led Trump to later clarify that the circumstances in which he would do so are narrow.
“I would only meet with Maduro to discuss one thing: a peaceful exit from power!” Trump said on Twitter, promising to “ALWAYS stand against socialism.”
Unlike the radical left, I will ALWAYS stand against socialism and with the people of Venezuela. My Admin has always stood on the side of FREEDOM and LIBERTY and against the oppressive Maduro regime! I would only meet with Maduro to discuss one thing: a peaceful exit from power!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2020
Maduro spent much of Trump’s first year in office attempting to reset his relationship with the U.S. government. Despite Biden’s pleasantries with Maduro, President Barack Obama did impose significant sanctions on the Maduro regime for its widespread human rights violations, branding socialist Venezuela a “national security threat” to the United States. Maduro attempted to reach out to Trump directly to reverse those sanctions.
Many of Maduro’s attempts were met with mockery, as he tried to send messages to Trump in English. In March 2017, shortly after Trump’s inauguration, Maduro sent a message to Trump personally in which he appeared to be saying that Trump should ignore establish foreign policy minds on U.S. Venezuela policy, but instead said, “open your hair.”
By May, Maduro was shouting at state-organized rallies for Trump to get his “dirty hands out of here.”
Maduro attempted yet again to reach out to Trump in January 2019, in the aftermath of Guaidó’s legal ascent to the presidency, saying in English, “not that way, Donald Trump!” Video of Maduro’s remarks showed Maduro’s cronies openly laughing at his English prowess.