CARACAS (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump sought contacts with Venezuelan officials early in his term, President Nicolas Maduro said on Tuesday, adding that he hopes to establish dialogue with U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration.
Venezuela and the United States cut off diplomatic ties last year after the Trump administration, together with dozens of other countries, recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as the South American country’s rightful leader, arguing that Maduro had rigged his 2018 re-election.
Maduro calls Guaido a U.S. puppet seeking to overthrow his government to control the OPEC nation’s vast oil resources.
“We hope that once the new government of Joe Biden is installed, that they have time to think, and we hope they open the possibility of dialogue between Venezuela and the United States,” Maduro told reporters at a news conference from the presidential palace in capital Caracas.
Maduro said that in early 2017 Delcy Rodriguez – Venezuela’s current vice president who was serving as foreign minister at the time – was invited to Trump’s inauguration but did not attend because it was “not convenient.”
He added that a Trump intermediary later invited him to a meeting with the U.S. president during the United Nations General Assembly in late 2018. Maduro said he was open to the meeting, but that the U.S. “establishment” prevented the meeting from happening.
Trump said publicly at the time that he would be open to meeting Maduro, but that no such meeting was on his agenda.
The White House and U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Brian Ellsworth and Deisy Buitrago in Caracas; Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Matthew Lewis)