Published: Sat, August 12, 2017
World News | By Carolyn Briggs

Venezuela's Maduro: 'Mr. Donald Trump, here is my hand'

Venezuela's Maduro: 'Mr. Donald Trump, here is my hand'

The United States sanctioned President Nicolas Maduro and other Venezuelan officials after Maduro established a constituent assembly run by his Socialist Party loyalists and cracked down on widespread opposition.

In a lengthy address to the 545 members of a new, all-powerful constitutional assembly, Mr Maduro instructed Venezuela's foreign minister to approach the United States about arranging a telephone conversation or meeting with Mr Trump.

He told the newly elected constituent assembly that he wanted "a personal conversation" when the two leaders attended the UN General Assembly in NY next month.

"Mister Donald Trump, here is my hand", the Venezuelan socialist leader said, adding that he wanted as strong a relationship with the United States as he has with Russian Federation.

The Constituent Assembly unanimously approved Maduro "as constitutional president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, head of state and government, commander in chief of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces", said the agreement read by the constituent member Aristobulo Isturiz during a special session on Thursday.

As the economic and political situation deteriorates in the Latin American country, with close to 130 people killed in anti-regime protests, global condemnation of the leftist government of Caracas has increased, with the United States slapping Maduro himself with direct sanctions.

Nine U.S. companies including Chevron (CVX +0.1%), Valero Energy (VLO -1.4%) and Phillips 66 (PSX -0.6%) now process Venezuelan crude in more than 20 U.S. refineries, many of them designed for the type of heavy crude that Venezuela exports, and replacing those supplies would be disruptive and costly.

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Last Friday the Constituent Assembly was sworn in with the rejection of a large part of the global community.

The body has already fired Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz, who broke ranks earlier this year to become an outspoken critic of the president. 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.

Protests have lost steam in the past week as security forces have stepped up repression and demonstrators have grown discouraged by the opposition's failure to bring about change.

On Wednesday, after much debate, the coalition said it would contest overdue regional elections in Venezuela's 23 states on December 10, with the aim of holding Maduro to the electoral calendar, which also sees the next presidential election in October 2018.

The body has usurped the powers of the national assembly, and is tasked with rewriting the south American country's constitution.

A British-based company, Smartmatic, that supplied the voting technology has said the turnout figure was "tampered with".

Experts say individual sanctions have had little or no impact on Maduro's policies and that broader oil-sector and financial sanctions may be the only way to make the Venezuelan government feel economic pain.

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