AP EXCLUSIVE: Maduro ally presses for dialogue with Biden

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CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) – A close ally of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on Friday said he hoped the Biden administration will reverse a policy of “cruel” sanctions and instead leave room for diplomacy that could lead to the reopening of the American embassy and at liberation. of several imprisoned American citizens.

Jorge Rodríguez’s comments came in his first interview since taking over as head of the National Assembly of Venezuela following strong protests from the United States, the European Union and national opponents.

Rodriguez, extending an olive branch to the new US president, said the ruling Socialist Party was eager to make a fresh start after four years of endless attacks by the Trump administration which he said not only exacerbated suffering among Venezuelans and failed to overthrow Maduro, but also punished. American investors who have always been important in the OPEC nation.

“All points and all questions are on the table,” he said, including the future of six Venezuelan-American oil executives arrested for corruption and two former Green Berets caught in failed attempt to overthrow Maduro .

It is unclear whether the Biden administration will accept the openness or continue the harsh policy of regime change it inherits. Much depends on his treatment of outgoing congress leader Juan Guaidó, whom the Trump administration recognizes as Venezuela’s rightful leader.

Past attempts at government dialogue with the opposition have failed to end the country’s standoff, and Maduro has tightened his grip on power. In the meantime, there is no end in sight to an economic crisis that has driven millions of people and left behind in lack of basic commodities, including gasoline, to a country at the top. of the world’s largest oil reserves.

Rodriguez refused to endorse appeals from his red-shirted supporters to Guaidó prison and instead said he was ready to speak to the 37-year-old former head of the National Assembly.

“This new National Assembly takes the broadest possible approach to dialogue,” said Rodriguez of the neoclassical legislature in the heart of Caracas.

But he warned that the talks would only succeed if Guaidó and his allies apologize for plotting to overthrow Maduro and for supporting the foreign government freeze on Venezuelan oil assets which he says have harmed ordinary Venezuelans amid the crisis. ‘a pandemic.

“If you resort to amnesia in initiating a process of reconciliation, you run the risk that these events did not happen,” said Rodriguez, a trained psychologist. “You run the risk of serious situations happening again.”

Rodríguez, 55, was among the candidates loyal to Maduro who won more than 90% of the seats in a December 6 election boycotted by Guaidó and the main opposition parties. The United States, the European Union and several Latin American neighbors rejected the election as undemocratic after several parties were barred from running. The participation rate was paltry 31%, the lowest in years.

Nonetheless, Rodríguez dismissed criticism that he was running a stamp legislature – the last branch of the Venezuelan government that was out of reach of the ruling party before the recent vote.

As President of the National Assembly, Rodriguez is second in the line of presidential succession, behind his younger sister, Vice President Delcy Rodriguez. The two are among Maduro’s most loyal civilian supporters, their left-wing credentials polished from a young age when their father, a Socialist League activist, died in 1976 in police custody after being tortured.

In his first days of work, Rodríguez approved a special commission to punish these …

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