Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela Says He’s Open to Talks With Opposition
President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela said Wednesday that he was open to talks with the country’s opposition but rejected a call for new elections, Russia’s RIA news agency reported.
“I am ready to sit down at the negotiating table with the opposition so that we could talk about what benefits Venezuela,” Mr. Maduro said.
It was not clear if the comments were a genuine offer for negotiations with the opposition or a bid to buy time for his embattled government.
He mentioned several possible mediators for the talks, including Mexico, Uruguay, Bolivia, Russia, the Vatican and other European governments that had encouraged dialogue. But he gave no indication of any concrete progress in arranging the talks.
The United States last week recognized the opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, as Venezuela’s acting president and has called on other countries to follow suit. Most Latin American nations have recognized Mr. Guaidó, and European Union countries on Saturday called for new elections, warning that they too would recognize the opposition leader as acting president if Mr. Maduro failed to allow a vote.
Mr. Maduro said he would support early parliamentary elections but dismissed a call for a snap presidential election following the vote last year, widely described as fraudulent, that gave him a second six-year term.
“If the imperialists want new elections, let them wait until 2025,” he said.
China and Russia have continued to support Mr. Maduro.
Mr. Maduro also dismissed the possibility of military intervention by the United States to remove him from power, a prospect raised by John R. Bolton, the national security adviser. He called Mr. Bolton “infantile” and “clowning” for speaking to reporters while holding a notepad with the phrase “5,000 troops to Colombia” written on top.
Mr. Guaidó has called for more pressure on Mr. Maduro from abroad. “We need more sanctions from the E.U.,” he told the German daily Bild in an interview published Wednesday. “More and more people are being murdered. It is clear that the regime is absolutely corrupt.”
Mr. Guaidó said he was not preoccupied with threats of arrest or violence. “If I am always thinking of fear, I couldn’t stand here,” he said from his office in the National Assembly in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital.
“We all live at the edge of being imprisoned or even being murdered,” he added. “That, however, does not stop us from understanding our responsibility.”