Venezuela‘s President Nicolas Maduro expressed readiness to hold negotiations with the American-backed opposition in the presence of international mediators, while accusing the US of ordering his assassination.
The beleaguered leader, who previously rejected calls for talks, told Russia‘s state-owned RIA Novosti news agency on Wednesday he changed his stance “for the sake of Venezuela’s peace and its future”.
Maduro said the talks could be held with the mediation of other countries and he mentioned Mexico, Uruguay, Bolivia, the Vatican and Russia as potential third parties.
He accused US President Donald Trump of organising his killing, saying he was aware of Trump’s “orders” for the Colombian government and local mafia to carry it out. He offered no evidence to support the allegation.
“If something happens to me one day then Donald Trump and Colombian President Ivan Duque will be responsible for everything that is happening to me,” he said.
“At the same time, I am protected. We have a good system of defence in place and moreover, we have more significant protection – this is protection from God who will give me a long life.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday Maduro’s opponents must drop all preconditions for talks to take place.
“We call on the opposition to refuse ultimatums and to work together independently, guided only by the interests of the Venezuelan people,” Lavrov told reporters.
Maduro also denounced calls for his resignation, saying it amounted to blackmail.
“We do not accept the ultimatum from anyone in the world, we do not accept blackmail,” he said.
“The presidential elections in Venezuela were held, but if the imperialists want new elections, let them wait until 2025.”However, he said he would support early parliamentary elections.
“It would be very good to conduct parliamentary elections at an earlier stage, it would be a good form of political discussion,” Maduro said.He also implied he was firmly in charge of the army whose support is crucial.
“I am carrying out my duties as commander-in-chief according to the constitution consolidating the national Bolivarian armed forces,” he said. “And the Bolivarian armed forces are demonstrating a lesson in ethics, loyalty and discipline.”Maduro refused to comment on reports last week that Kremlin-linked private military contractors have been dispatched to boost his security detail, saying he “cannot say anything about it”.