US President Donald Trump's national security adviser Lieutenant General H. R. McMaster has met with Venezuela’s opposition leader and Parliament Speaker Julio Borges, who seek to oust the oil-rich country’s President Nicolas Maduro amid an economic crisis fueled by the 2014 crash of oil prices.
The high-level meeting at the White House on Saturday centered on Venezuela’s current internal crisis and opposition-led anti-government protests as well as efforts to remove the socialist government that has repeatedly accused Washington of interference in its domestic affairs in a bid to bring to power a US-friendly administration.
According to an official White House statement, "They discussed the ongoing crisis in Venezuela and the need for the government to adhere to the Venezuelan Constitution, release political prisoners, respect the National Assembly, and hold free and democratic elections."
The statement further read, "They agreed that there is a strong need to bring the crisis to a quick and peaceful conclusion," without elaborating on how the Trump administration was going to do towards the effort.
Borges, who founded the right-wing Justice First Party and currently leads the opposition MUD coalition in Venezuela, has described Trump as a leader who understands that Venezuela’s meltdown is sparking instability far beyond its borders during an interview with the US-based Washington Times daily last month.
“In all of Trump’s conversations with leaders in Latin America, the topic of Venezuela comes up — and it’s raised by him,” Borges said, adding that “this top-of-mind concern Trump has about Venezuela is very valuable for us.”
Borges (pictured above) further stated that it is “very important to us that he be a factor helping to create maximum international pressure” on Maduro.
Borges was also cited as saying to the Times that Washington’s hands-on approach under Trump could help Venezuela overcome the “classic dictatorship” led by Maduro.
In October 2016, Borges led the failed — and constitutionally illegal — initiative to put Maduro on trial, arguing that the democratically-elected president had staged a “coup,” and he has persistently urged the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS) to intervene in Venezuela.
The development came as Venezuela’s opposition supporters staged major rallies in the capital Caracas and other cities in the past week to protest President Maduro’s bid to write a new constitution.
Maduro’s proposal, announced last Monday, has enraged the US-backed opposition, prompting them to call for ever larger protest rallies to demand re-call elections in an attempt to oust the socialist president.
The government, however, insists that the protests are incited by Washington in a persisting bid to remove Maduro from power, accusing opposition elements of hiring armed gangs to confront and attack security forces.
A number of people have been killed in incidents of violence related to the protests as well as lootings prompted by the economic crisis in Venezuela in recent weeks.
The death toll from the recent unrest has reportedly reached 37 as of Friday as the government announced that a 33-year-old college student was shot dead by an unidentified assailant who fled by a motorbike during a student rioting in the city of El Tigre on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Maduro insists a new constitution is essential to fend off what he refers to as an attempted foreign-sponsored “coup” against his government. He has vowed to defend the socialist “revolution” launched by the late president Hugo Chavez, who oversaw the writing of the current constitution and passed away in 2013.