MAJOR: Maduro confirms contacts with Trump government officials

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CARACAS – Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has acknowledged that he has been in contact with US officials for months and said they happen with his authorization.

“We’ve had secret meetings in secret places with secret people that nobody knows,” Maduro said, adding that all talks had been carried out under his “direct” authorization.

“Sure there’s been contact and we’ll continue having contact,” Maduro said in a chain statement over radio and television.

Trump, however, refused to say whether such dialogue is being conducted with Cabello, considered the nation’s second most powerful politician after Maduro.

“We’re talking to various representatives of Venezuela,” Trump responded when a reporter asked him whether the White House is talking to Cabello. “I don’t want to say who, but we are talking at a very high level.”

On Monday, the Associated Press news agency wrote that an unidentified US government source said a US government emissary would have met with Diosdado Cabello, president of the National Constituent Assembly, to persuade him to betray Maduro.

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Since January 23, the US government has not recognized Nicolás Maduro as the president of Venezuela. In his place, Washington supports Juan Guaidó, who proclaimed himself the “interim president” of the Caribbean country.

Meanwhile, he head of U.S. Southern Command says military officials are focusing on preparing for “the day after” once “isolated” Maduro leaves power.

Navy Admiral Craig Faller warned Monday against Venezuela’s “formidable weapon system” and criticized Cuba, Russia and China for assisting Maduro, saying it was important to put “continuous pressure” on the “illegitimate regime” and organize humanitarian efforts.

Faller also shared concern about the growing influence of China in Brazil. China is the South American country’s largest foreign investor.

The commander is in Rio de Janeiro for a multinational maritime exercise this month that partly aims to better coordinate the response to cyber war threats and natural disasters.

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