Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Minister Jorge Arreaza speaks during a news conference surrounded by supporting diplomats from several countries at U.N. headquarters, Feb. 14, 2019.
Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Minister Jorge Arreaza speaks during a news conference surrounded by supporting diplomats from several countries at U.N. headquarters, Feb. 14, 2019.

Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza held secret talks in New York with the U.S. special envoy to Venezuela, President Nicloas Maduro revealed.

Maduro told the Associated Press that Arreaza invited special envoy Elliot Abrams to Caracas “privately, publicly or secretly.”

“If he wants to meet, just tell me when, where and how, and I’ll be there,” Maduro said.

A senior Venezuelan official said Abrams and Arreaza met twice in New York.

There has been no comment so far from U.S. officials. Just last week, Abrams said, “The time for dialogue with Maduro had long passed.”

 

WATCH: Neighbors Mull Ways to Get Aid Into Venezuela

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Dozens of countries recognize Guaido

The United States was the first of about 50 countries to recognize opposition leader and National Assembly head Juan Guaido as Venezuelan president, not Maduro, whose re-election last year has been dismissed by the U.S. and the opposition as a sham.

Arreaza said Thursday he is forming a coalition of diplomats who believe the U.S. and others are violating the U.N. charter against non-interference in member states.

Arreaza was surrounded by diplomats from 16 other countries, including Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and Cuba, when he met with reporters at the United Nations. These countries continue to back Maduro.

“We all have the right to live without the threat of use of force and without application of illegal coercive unilateral measures,” Arreaza said.

He said the group of diplomats will “begin a series of actions” within a few days to “raise awareness around the dangers that our people currently face.” But he gave no information on what they plan to do.

Sanctions denounced

The foreign minister also denounced U.S. sanctions against Venezuela and called the U.S. aid sitting across the border in Colombia a “spectacle.”

“The U.S. has blocked our economy. The cost of the blockade is over $30 billion, and they are sending this so-called humanitarian aid for $20 million. ... I’m choking you, I’m killing you, and then I’m giving you a cookie.”

He called Guiado’s Feb. 23 deadline for delivering that aid “absolutely absurd” because he said Guiado doesn’t control any policemen.

Maduro has refused to allow the food, medicine, and other aid into the country, saying Venezuela doesn’t need it and calling it a pretense for a U.S. invasion.

Richard Branson listens to a question at a press b
Richard Branson listens to a question at a press briefing in New York, Feb. 14, 2019.

He told the AP that all it takes for Venezuela to thrive again is for U.S. President Donald Trump to take his “infected hand” off the country.

Trump has not ruled out military action in Venezuela, but has not said under what conditions he would send in troops.

Earlier this week, the White House said Trump will speak about Venezuela at Florida International University in Miami on Monday. The school is in a neighborhood that has the largest concentration of Venezuelans in the United States.

The United States has already imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s state-run oil company and visa restrictions on top Venezuelan officials.

Benefit concert

Meanwhile, billionaire adventurer Richard Branson announced Thursday he is organizing a benefit concert starring a “wonderful lineup of regional and international artists” to raise money for aid for Venezuela.

“We must break the impasse or soon many Venezuelans will be on the verge of starvation or dearth,” Branson said.

He has scheduled the show for Feb. 22 in Cucta, Colombia, where the U.S. aid is stored in a warehouse.