Maduro allows US diplomats to stay after expulsion order, but sets conditions

Maduro allows US diplomats to stay after expulsion order, but sets conditions
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro revised his earlier demand for US diplomats to leave the country within 72 hours, giving time for negotiations in a sign of “true diplomacy.” He warned of repercussions if no deal is reached.

Maduro offered Trump a 30-day period to seek the establishment of a “US interests office” in Caracas and a similar Venezuelan institution in the US.

“That is true diplomacy,” he said on national TV after reading out the official statement.

On Wednesday, Maduro ordered US diplomats to leave Venezuela within 72 hours after the Trump administration recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s interim president. The US snubbed the demand, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed President Maduro, who was sworn into his second term earlier in January, does not have the “legal authority to break diplomatic relations.”

Maduro’s government considers the US’ actions a “vile” coup attempt, but is seemingly seeking a deal. The proposed "interests office" would primarily deal with immigration issues. A similar body – USINT Havana – represented the US for years in Cuba before the Obama administration restored diplomatic relations in 2015. Maduro, however, does not intend to wait so long: Venezuela’s official proposal means that failure to agree on future cooperation in due time would eventually result in the expulsion of American diplomats from Venezuela. In turn, Venezuelan diplomats will have to return home as well.

The US backs National Assembly leader Juan Guaido who earlier this week labeled Maduro an illegitimate usurper and declared himself acting president following protests on the streets of Caracas.

Guaido’s claim was also supported by Washington’s Latin-American allies as well as many European countries. On Saturday, Germany, France, Spain, and the UK issued official statements urging Guaido to be recognized as interim president unless new elections are held within eight days.

The messages appeared to be suspiciously similarly worded, something that caught the eye of Russian FM spokesperson Maria Zakharova. “The statements are not simply identical but they are even made simultaneously,” she wrote on Facebook.

READ MORE: France, Germany & Spain issue ‘identical’ threats to recognize Venezuela’s self-appointed president

Russia, Turkey, Bolivia and a number of other states backed the elected president, Maduro, who received 67.8 percent of the vote in the presidential election last year. His supporters also rallied on the streets of Caracas after Guaido's statement. 

On Saturday, Russia’s envoy to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, accused Washington of treating Latin America “as its backyard with no regard to the interests of people living there.”

Nebenzia was speaking at the UN Security Council, which saw the US and France condemn Maduro’s government for the country’s dire economic situation. He stated that the economic crisis was fostered by “discriminatory economic measures” imposed by the US and its allies, “who are now crying about the suffering” of the people.

Also on rt.com UNSC should look into US attempts for coup in Venezuela – Russian envoy

Nebenzia also said the UNSC meeting, held on the US’ request, was nothing more than an “unethical ploy” to involve the international institution in a regime-change campaign.

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