Mérida, October 22, 2020 (venezuelanalysis.com) – A Trump administration envoy held a meeting with a high-ranking Venezuelan government official to try and get President Nicolas Maduro to step down.
According to Bloomberg, Richard Grenell met Venezuelan Vice President for Communications Jorge Rodriguez in Mexico on September 17 in an attempt to secure a major foreign policy victory for the administration ahead of the November 3 US presidential elections.
Anonymous officials told the business outlet that former ambassador to Germany Grenell “sought to discuss Maduro’s departure” and that the talks “were not successful.” The Venezuelan government has yet to comment on the reports at the time of writing.
The reports about the trip generated confusion in Washington, with the State Department allegedly unaware of the administration’s initiative.
The Trump administration ramped up regime change efforts following opposition leader Juan Guaido’s self-proclamation as “interim president” in January 2019. The US Treasury Department has levied successive rounds of unilateral sanctions against the Caribbean nation, including a “Cuba-style” embargo.
For his part, Guaido led several unsuccessful attempts to oust the government by force, including a military putsch in April 2019. The opposition leader was also involved in a failed paramilitary invasion in May 2020.
Guaido saw his support dwindle and his leadership increasingly questioned amidst opposition ranks after a string of scandals which saw him lose the Venezuelan National Assembly presidency. While Trump has occasionally expressed doubts on Guaido, officials such as White House Envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams have sought to reaffirm US support for the opposition lawmaker and the hardline opposition’s decision to boycott upcoming legislative elections.
With the presidential elections and the key swing state of Florida in sight, the White House moved to double down on attempts to oust the Maduro government and tighten sanctions.
Washington’s support for Guaido has extended to its allies, often with US pressure. Recently released documents showed that the UK has backed Venezuelan anti-government efforts with almost half a million pounds over the past two years.
In information released to Declassified, the UK Foreign Office said that it had granted Transparencia Venezuela, a local branch of Transparency International, £450,000 from the UK’s £1.26-billion Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) to establish an “anti-corruption coalition.”