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US in contact with Venezuela’s govt at highest level: Trump

Washington: President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that his administration is in contact with Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro government “at a very high level,” after being asked by the media about dialogue between the White House and the man considered to be Venezuela’s No. 2 official, Diosdado Cabello.

“We’re talking to various representatives of Venezuela,” Trump said after asked whether the US administration is in contact with Cabello. “I don’t want to say who, but we are talking at a very high level.”

The President spoke with reporters during a bilateral Oval Office meeting with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, the Efe news reported.

Several press reports, such as the one published Sunday by the Axios Website, have said that in recent weeks there has been contact between Cabello and the White House via intermediaries.

It is not clear what the aim of the alleged contacts with Cabello might be, but some analysts say that the White House could simply be trying to contribute to destabilising the circle of top officials around Maduro.

Without confirming the dialogue with Cabello, a State Department officials on Monday had said that in “recent months, dozens of those who are thought to be Maduro’s closest allies have tried to contact the US to negotiate (Maduro’s) exit” from power.

“The question of whether the US responds or not depends on the specific circumstances,” the official added, insisting that Maduro “cannot trust his circle of advisers.”

According to Axios, citing US government sources, the contacts with Cabello have been coordinated by the official in charge of Western Hemisphere Affairs on the White House National Security Council, Mauricio Claver-Carone.

One of Claver-Carone’s predecessors in the White House, Fernando Cutz, said that, according to State Department sources, the US has been in touch with Cabello at least twice in recent months: the first time in Caracas in July and the second recently in Washington.

This second encounter was attended by an envoy of Cabello, while a third meeting was scheduled for this week in Caracas, but Cutz told reporters upon revealing the dialogue that he was not sure if it had occurred.

The contacts with Cabello, who has been sanctioned by the US and accused by the US government of having links to drug trafficking, have ruffled the features of some within the State Department who are concerned over the possibility that the White House may strike a deal with one of Chavismo’s key figures, Cutz said.

Almost seven months after recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president, Trump has been giving signs of impatience over Maduro’s continuation in power, and on Tuesday he said that he is helping the South American country as much as he can.

The President said that the US was remaining aloof to Venezuela’s internal political crisis but nevertheless it is helping.