Trump slams Maduro at meeting with Venezuelan opposition

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Washington, Sep 26 (IANS) United States president Donald Trump has said that Venezuela’s head of state is a corrupt and brutal dictator who has handed his country over to Communist-ruled Cuba, although he vowed that a peaceful political transition will eventually occur in the oil-rich nation.

Trump made his remarks on Wednesday during a meeting on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly with Venezuelan opposition members and representatives of nearly a score of Western Hemisphere countries that oppose Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and recognize National Assembly leader Juan Guaido as that country’s legitimate leader, Efe news reported.

“We will stand with the Venezuelan people every single day until they are finally freed from this horrible and brutal oppression,” Trump said. “They will be freed. It will happen.”

The US is carrying out a harsh sanctions campaign aimed at further strangling Venezuela, where hyperinflation and shortages of basic goods have prompted around 3 million people to leave the country over the past five years, according to the US Agency for International Development.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced $52 million in development assistance aimed at helping “Guaido, his government, and the Venezuelan people as they seek to restore citizen-responsive, democratic governance to their country.”

That aid is in addition to hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian assistance the US government has already provided in response to the Venezuelan regional crisis, “including vital support to vulnerable Venezuelans and the communities that host them in Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru and elsewhere throughout the region,” that agency said.

“The situation in Venezuela is a tragedy of historic proportion,” Trump said at the meeting. “They don’t have water. They don’t have food. They don’t have medicine. They don’t have anything.”

Trump said his administration is trying to pave the way for free and fair elections in that country.

He added that it is regrettable that some countries outside the hemisphere still are providing the Venezuelan government with military and technological assistance.

But he did not specifically single out Russia, which along with China and dozens of other countries continues to support Maduro.

Guaido’s representative for foreign affairs, Julio Borges, meanwhile, said during the meeting that Cuba “is the mastermind behind this tragedy to sustain Maduro.”

In attendance were the presidents of Colombia, Ivan Duque; Chile, Sebastian Piñera; Ecuador, Lenin Moreno; and Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez, as well as representatives of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica and Saint Lucia.

Also taking part were Borges and Guaido’s envoy to the US, Carlos Vecchio.

In a statement Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham expressed confidence that the meeting would spur regional allies and the broader international community “to take concrete action to increase pressure on Maduro’s dictatorship.”

She added that “leaders from across the hemisphere agree that now is the time to finally end this dictatorship and to safeguard democracy in the region.”

“The leaders who gathered today are united in the belief that our shared response to this crisis will be a defining moment in our history. The United States also calls on all nations to take additional steps to hold the Cuban regime responsible for its direct role in the demise of a once prosperous Venezuela,” the statement read.

In particular, the White House said the US “commends the presidents of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru for their strong leadership to address the humanitarian crisis that has sparked hundreds of thousands to flee Venezuela.”

–IANS

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