U.S. President Donald Trump says embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is willing to negotiate with his opponents to solve the political crisis in the South American nation, but warned Americans not to travel to Venezuela "until further notice."
Trump's early Wednesday morning tweet referred to Maduro's offer to hold talks with the country's opposition forces and hold early legislative elections.
Maduro willing to negotiate with opposition in Venezuela following U.S. sanctions and the cutting off of oil revenues. Guaido is being targeted by Venezuelan Supreme Court. Massive protest expected today. Americans should not travel to Venezuela until further notice.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 30, 2019
He added the threat of U.S. sanctions, including cutting off Venezuelan oil revenues, contributed to Maduro's apparent softening stance.
Maduro made the offer Wednesday during an interview with Russia's RIA news agency, saying he is willing to sit down at the negotiating table "for the good of Venezuela." But he said there will not be a new presidential election until 2025, rejecting a demand by opposition leader Juan Guaido, the president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly.
Guaido declared himself as the nation's interim president last week after the Assembly declared Maduro's presidency as illegitimate, arguing that his re-election in May 2018 was not fair, with most opposition candidates either prevented from running or boycotting the race.
?Guaido called on Venezuelans to mount a peaceful, two-hour, midday protest Wednesday "to demand that the armed forces side with the people." He is offering amnesty to soldiers who back his movement and reject Maduro's socialist government.
In a CNN interview Tuesday, Guaido said it is possible to have a peaceful transition from Maduro and eventually hold free elections.
Venezuelan Attorney General Tarek William Saab announced Tuesday that he was launching a criminal investigation into Guaido's activities against President Maduro's socialist government, because of the unrest that followed Guaido's declaring himself the country's legitimate president. Saab also asked the Venezuelan Supreme Court to prevent Guaido from leaving the country and block his financial accounts.
U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton warned Saab in a Twitter post Tuesday that his request to keep Guaido from leaving Venezuela could lead to "serious consequences." He added the consequences will hit "those who attempt to subvert democracy and harm Guaido."
We denounce the illegitimate former Venezuelan Attorney General%27s threats against President Juan Guaido. Let me reiterate - there will be serious consequences for those who attempt to subvert democracy and harm Guaido.— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) January 29, 2019
?The Trump administration has imposed sanctions on PDVSA, Venezuela's government-owned oil company. The sanctions announced Monday will freeze any assets the state-owned PDVSA has in the United States, and bars U.S. firms and citizens from doing business with it.
PDVSA's U.S.-based subsidiary, Citgo, which refines Venezuelan oil and sells Citgo brand gasoline in the U.S., will continue to operate as usual. But any money Citgo earns will be placed in a blocked account.
Maduro said the United States is trying to "steal" Citgo from Venezuela.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Maduro and his allies have long used the state oil company as a vehicle for corruption and embezzlement. Mnuchin said Venezuela can get relief from the sanctions when control of the oil company is turned over to Guaido.
The collapse of world energy prices, corruption and failed socialist policies have created an economic and humanitarian crisis in oil-rich Venezuela.
Food, fuel and medicine are in extremely short supply. Inflation is out of control. Millions of Venezuelans have fled the country, and Maduro has shown little tolerance for opposition-led protests.
Mounting tensions in Venezuela prompted the U.S. State Department to warn U.S. citizens Tuesday not to travel to the country. The agency issued the warning "due to crime, civil unrest, poor health infrastructure, and arbitrary arrest and detention of U.S. citizens."
Maduro has blamed his country's woes on the United States, which he accuses of working with the opposition to topple the government.
He has called world leaders who want him gone "Trump sycophants."