U.S. and Venezuela hold secret talks

The Trump administration has been secretly talking with top aides of Nicolás Maduro in an effort to push Venezuela’s authoritarian president from power and clear the way for free elections in the economically devastated country, according to officials in Caracas and Washington familiar with the discussions.

The talks have involved powerful Maduro lieutenant Diosdado Cabello, who heads the country’s National Constituent Assembly and has been put under sanctions by Washington for alleged involvement in drug trafficking, and other important backers of the president in an effort to find a negotiated solution to the country’s crisis, these people said, adding the talks are at an early stage.

The U.S., which has imposed punishing sanctions on Venezuela’s state-run oil industry and on influential government and military figures, is pushing for democratic elections that would give opposition politicians, including Juan Guaidó, whom Washington considers Venezuela’s legitimate leader, a chance to take power.

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