An increasingly isolated Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro urged President Donald Trump to engage in a “dialogue” with him as soon as possible, shortly before the opening of the Summit of the Americas, which Maduro has threatened to attend despite not being invited.
Washington has rejected the invitation.
On Twitter Monday evening, Maduro—who the Trump administration has banned from entering the United States—urged Trump to keep a campaign promise he allegedly made not to intervene in foreign affairs.
“.@RealDonaldTrump campaigned promoting non-intervention in the internal affairs of other nations. The moment to abide by that and trade in his agenda of aggression for dialogue is here,” Maduro wrote. “Dialogue in Caracas or Washington, D.C.? Time and place and I’m there.”
.@RealDonaldTrump hizo campaña promoviendo la no intromisión en los asuntos internos de otros países. Llegó el momento de cumplirlo y cambiar su agenda de agresión por una de diálogo. ¿Diálogo en Caracas o Washington DC? Hora y lugar y ahí estaré.
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) February 19, 2018
Trump did not reply on Twitter, but a spokesperson for the National Security Council (NSC) told the Spanish news agency EFE that the White House had no interest in such a meeting.
“As we said last August, President Trump would happily speak to the leader of Venezuela as soon as certain steps are taken and the Maduro regime restores democracy to that great nation,” the unnamed spokesperson said. The statement listed some measures Maduro would have to take to restore democracy, such as “respecting the constitution of Venezuela; celebrating free, fair, and credible elections; freedom for political prisoners;” and an end to human rights violations.
Under Maduro’s socialist regime, most Venezuelans struggle to be able to afford three meals a day, due in part to government rationing of goods and in part to disastrous interventionist policies that have brought the value of the national currency, the bolívar, down to close to $0.
Politically, Maduro has taken significant measures to repress any dissident sentiments in the population. Among the most heavily criticized policies he has implemented is the creation of an unconstitutional body known as the “national constituents’ assembly,” stacked with Maduro supporters and family members, that the dictator illegally gave legislative power to. The ANC, as it is known, now functions as a parallel body to the democratically-elected National Assembly (AN), whose laws Maduro repeatedly ignored.
The ANC recently approved Maduro’s call for a presidential election in which the country’s largest opposition coalition is banned from participating. Maduro argued on state television that such an election was necessary to spite President Trump. Despite running uncontested, Maduro has already violated two election laws during his “campaign.”
“The United States denounces the decision by Venezuela’s National Electoral Council to unilaterally advance presidential elections without guarantees to ensure free, fair, and internationally-validated elections,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said following Maduro’s announcement of a new election this month. “These elections do not have the agreement of all political parties and limit the ability of individuals to run in the election.”
“It is unfortunate the Maduro regime is not courageous enough to contest elections on a level playing field,” she added.
Trump personally criticized Maduro at the recent National Prayer Breakfast, as well, asserting, “Millions of people in Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, and other countries suffer under repressive and brutal regimes.”
Maduro has attempted to reach out to Trump on multiple occasions in the past, even using broken English at times. A year ago, Maduro implored Trump in English to “open your hair, don’t let them got to you,” leaving observers baffled.
Despite these failures, Maduro appears to have little choice but to reach out to America after being largely ostracized by his neighbors. Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s government announced last week that they would ban Maduro from attending this year’s Summit of the Americas in Lima, stating that undemocratic leaders are not welcome. In response, Maduro lied on television, stating he had received the invite, and vowed that he would be there “rain, hail, or shin, by air, land, or sea.”
The Trump administration supported the disinvitation.
“We support the decision of Peru, as the host of the upcoming Summit of the Americas, to withdraw its invitation to President Maduro of Venezuela,” the State Department said. “Peru’s decision was made with the support of the Lima Group, which upheld the high democratic standard for Summit participation.”
“Our hemisphere is speaking with one voice: free and fair elections in Venezuela must include the full participation of political parties and political leaders, a proper electoral calendar, credible international observation, and an independent electoral authority,” the statement continued. “Our hemisphere is united in our commitment to promote and defend democracy, consistent with the Inter-American Democratic Charter.”