Caracas, August 5, 2019 (venezuelanalysis.com) – US President Donald Trump said he was considering a blockade of Venezuela on Thursday.
When asked by a reporter if he was considering a blockade or quarantine of Venezuela, in response to supposed involvement of China and Iran, the US president replied, “Yes, I am.”
While Trump did not offer any details as to what such a measure would entail, a White House official told Bloomberg that the statement should be “taken seriously” and that President Maduro had a “short window” to leave office.
For his part, Maduro repudiated Trump’s comments, vowing that Venezuelan seas would remain “free and independent.”
“[The statement] says a lot about the US’ government’s desperation in the face of the dignity of the Venezuelan people,” he said during a televised address. Maduro went on to add that Caracas would denounce the threat before the United Nations Security Council.
The United States was the first country to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as “interim president” following his self-proclamation on January 23. Since then, the opposition has engaged in several attempts to oust the Maduro government, including a humanitarian aid “showdown” on the Venezuela-Colombia border on February 23 and a failed military putsch on April 30.
Washington has also ramped up sanctions against Venezuela in recent months, targeting key sectors such as mining and banking, and especially the oil industry. The Treasury Department imposed an embargo on oil exports to US refineries in January, while also introducing obstacles for Venezuelan imports of fuel and diluents. The most recent sanctions were imposed against Venezuela’s CLAP subsidized food program.
The blockade threat from the White House coincided with a statement from the Norwegian government announcing that negotiations between the Venezuelan government and the opposition were continuing in Barbados.
“[T]he parties have reiterated their willingness to advance in the search for an agreed-upon and constitutional solution, focused on the well-being of the Venezuelan people,” the Norwegian Foreign Ministry said on Friday.
Representatives from the government and opposition held two previous rounds of negotiations mediated by the Norwegian government in Oslo, before talks were moved to the Caribbean island in July.
Lawmaker Stalin Gonzalez, a member of the opposition delegation, confirmed via Twitter that another round of negotiations was taking place, while Vice President Delcy Rodriguez likewise announced that a government delegation was heading to Barbados.
Both parties have reportedly set up a “permanent negotiating table.” While no details of the content of the negotiations are known, anonymous officials from both sides have said that the topic of elections is being left for last.