Is Nicolas Maduro on his way out as the dictator of Venezuela? To listen to him talking this week you certainly wouldn’t think so. He’s setting up meetings with foreign leaders, discussing new trade deals and making changes to domestic fiscal policy. And in an interview with the Associated Press, he dropped a bit of a bombshell. He was previously engaged in secret meetings with envoys from the United States. Since when are we taking meetings with this maniac?

A month into Venezuela’s high-stakes political crisis, President Nicolas Maduro revealed in an AP interview that his government held secret talks with the Trump administration and predicted he would survive an unprecedented global campaign to force his resignation.

While harshly criticizing President Donald Trump’s confrontational stance toward his socialist government, Maduro said Thursday that he holds out hope of meeting the U.S. president soon to resolve a crisis triggered by America’s recognition of opponent Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful leader.

Maduro said that during two hushed meetings in New York, his foreign minister invited the Washington-based special envoy for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, to come to visit “privately, publicly or secretly.”

So Maduro not only wants to sit down with Elliott Abrams again (“publicly, privately or secretly”), but he’d like a meeting with President Trump. What do you suppose the odds are? Trump has taken meetings with plenty of shady characters in the past, like Kim Jong-un, Putin and the Tyrant of Turkey, but only when it held the potential of serving his purposes. He’s also never called for any of those leaders to step down. It doesn’t sound promising for Maduro, however. The only comment from the administration thus far, given on background, was that we’re willing to “meet with former Venezuela officials, including Maduro himself, to discuss their exit plans.”

Ouch. That’s going to leave a mark.

Holding off-the-record meetings with a foreign leader in this sort of situation isn’t all that surprising. If Abrams had negotiated a deal where Maduro would step down if we assured him safe passage out of the country to some nation that would have him (probably Russia or China), I don’t think too many people would have had a problem with it. But clearly, that’s not where Maduro’s head is… at least not yet.

The one other item I wanted to point out here was the tone taken by the AP reporters who covered this story. If you read through the whole thing you’ll notice a disturbing pattern. Not only do they set a tone that treats Maduro as if he’s just another world leader, but they clearly hint that the United States was the cause of his ills. Let’s look at a couple of examples. (Emphasis added)

Venezuela is plunging deeper into a political chaos triggered by the U.S. demand that Maduro step down a month into a second presidential term

Guaido declared himself interim president on Jan. 23, saying he had a constitutional right to assume presidential powers from the “tyrant” Maduro. (Just wanted to point out that they put tyrant in scare quotes there.)

[H]e holds out hope of meeting the U.S. president soon to resolve a crisis triggered by America’s recognition of opponent Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful leader.

Those aren’t quotes from Maduro. Those are descriptors added in by the Associated Press. First of all, the United States didn’t “trigger” the demands that Maduro step down. A coalition of South American nations, plus Canada, recognized Guaido before we did, and multiple European nations jumped on the bandwagon during the same period that we did. And even before that, one could reasonably argue that it was Guaido who “triggered” all of this by declaring himself interim president and driving thousands of protesters into the streets.

I fail to see how the United States in General or Trump, in particular, are “responsible” for the current mess in Venezuela or the political chaos engulfing the Maduro regime. Aside from some sanctions and rhetoric that match nearly every other western power, we haven’t done anything provocative or out of the ordinary. Trump isn’t even catching any heat from most of the Democratic leadership over his handling of the Venezuelan situation. (With the notable exception of a few of the new socialist “superstars” who oppose regime change for a socialist leader like Maduro.)

This article is disturbingly cozy toward Venezuela’s tyrant and takes a tone that sounds suspiciously critical of U.S. policy toward that nation. I would expect better from the Associated Press.