Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro, recently accused of drug trafficking by the United States, should learn from history and accept an offer by the Trump administration to negotiate his exit, a senior official of the Donald Trump administration said Monday.
“History shows that those who do not cooperate with U.S. law enforcement agencies do not fare well,” the official said in a call with journalists. “Maduro probably regrets not taking the offer six months ago. We urge Maduro not to regret not taking it now.”
The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald first reported in July 2019 that the administration was willing to offer Maduro guarantees that he would not be prosecuted if he agreed to step down.
The official said that the accusation of drug trafficking unveiled last week by the Justice Department against Maduro and other top regime officials complicates his situation from a legal point of view.
“Politically, we would negotiate the conditions [of his departure], but he has to leave power,” he said.
The official did not clarify if the offer would also be valid for Diosdado Cabello, Maduro’s number two, whom the United States accuses of leading the so-called Cartel de los Soles, a drug-trafficking operation made up of military and officials of the Maduro regime.
The senior official declined to comment on reports that Hugo Carvajal, the former head of Venezuelan military intelligence under Hugo Chávez, is negotiating his surrender to U.S. authorities.
Carvajal is allegedly in Spain and is one of those accused of drug trafficking by the Department of Justice.
Former Gen. Cliver Alcalá, also accused in the indictment, is already in U.S. custody.
The charges against Maduro unveiled last Thursday prompted the Russian oil company Rosneft, whose subsidiaries already face sanctions for transporting Venezuelan oil, to liquidate its assets in that country and transfer them to an unnamed Russian government company.
The official said the move shows that U.S. sanctions have “an impact.” However, it remains unclear whether Rosneft’s withdrawal implies that the Kremlin is having second thoughts about its support for Maduro.
In a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, President Donald Trump “reiterated that the situation in Venezuela is dire, and we all have an interest in seeing a democratic transition to end the ongoing crisis,” the White House said in a statement.
The senior administration official also accused Maduro of minimizing the impact of the coronavirus in Venezuela and of being the only obstacle for humanitarian aid to reach millions of Venezuelans.
The recent call by the president of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, to form an emergency national government that would include all political players in the country, is a “reasonable” initiative that has been well received,” added the official.
The United States and about 60 countries recognize Guaidó as the legitimate interim president of Venezuela. The senior official warned that Maduro would be solely responsible if something happened to the opposition leader.
Over the weekend, Guaidó’s communication center reported that the police had kidnapped the girlfriend of one of Guaidó’s aides.
“We take the security of Juan Guaidó very seriously,” he said. “Maduro will be held directly responsible” if something happens to him.
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