MOSCOW — More than a week into a standoff with the opposition, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said on Wednesday that he is willing to negotiate.
Violent street demonstrations erupted last week after opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared during a major opposition rally in Caracas that he had assumed presidential powers under the constitution and planned to hold fresh elections to end Maduro’s “dictatorship.”
On Tuesday, Guaidó urged Venezuelans to step outside their homes and workplaces for two hours on Wednesday in the first mass mobilization since last week’s big protests.
Maduro, who previously rejected calls for negotiations, said in an interview with Russian state-owned RIA Novosti news agency that he was open to talks with the opposition.
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“I’m willing to sit down for talks with the opposition so that we could talk for the sake of Venezuela’s peace and its future,” he said.
Maduro also accused President Donald Trump of ordering a hit on him from Colombia. He said he was aware of Trump’s “orders” for the Colombian government and the local mafia to kill him.
"If something happens to me one day, Donald Trump and Colombian President Ivan Duque will bear responsibility," Maduro said of his right-wing foes.
Though the Venezuelan was reprising an old allegation that critics scoff at as a smokescreen, there was speculation of military plans after Trump adviser John Bolton appeared on Monday with a pad showing the words "5,000 troops to Colombia."
Facing the biggest challenge of his six-year rule, the 56-year-old socialist leader also said his armed forces remained loyal and President Vladimir Putin was firmly behind him.
Russia has been one of Maduro’s staunchest supporters, providing it with loans and weapons.
Maduro refused to comment on reports last week that Kremlin-linked private military contractors have been dispatched to boost his security detail, saying he “cannot say anything about it.”
He also dismissed calls for a snap presidential vote, saying his re-election last year was fair despite widespread allegations of fraud and the barring of two opposition rivals.