The United States has started secret preliminary talks via intermediaries with Diosdado Cabello, the leader of Venezuela’s Socialist party and the man considered the most powerful in the Latin American country after Nicolas Maduro, The Associated Press reported on Monday, quoting a senior U.S. administration official.
The inner circle of Nicolas Maduro are looking to obtain guarantees that they won’t face punishment if they yield to demands to remove Maduro from power, the AP said in its exclusive report.
According to the U.S. administration official who spoke to the AP, an intermediary in close contact with the Trump Administration met with Cabello in Caracas last month. A second meeting is being planned, too. It’s not clear if Maduro knows of and/or has endorsed such talks between Cabello and a contact linked to the U.S. administration, the AP says.
An aide to Cabello, however, told the AP that Cabello is not betraying Maduro and would only hold meetings with Americans or U.S.-backed envoys or negotiators with Maduro’s permission and only if talks lead to easing of the harsh U.S. sanctions on Venezuela and its vital oil industry.
Earlier this month, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order freezing all assets of the Venezuelan government in the United States, noting the move may open space for sanctions against companies doing business with the Maduro government.
The United States imposed sweeping sanctions against Venezuela’s oil industry at the start of this year. Since then, production had fallen drastically with no crude going to U.S. Gulf refineries—once Venezuela’s biggest market. As a result, the already serious humanitarian crisis in the country worsened further.
According to OPEC’s secondary sources—the ones the cartel considers the official production figures—Venezuela’s crude oil production in July 2019 dropped by 32,000 bpd from June to 742,000 bpd. To compare, Venezuela’s crude oil production in 2017 averaged 1.911 million bpd.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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