Venezuela’s Guaido to Meet Trump at White House Today

(Bloomberg) -- Venezuela opposition leader Juan Guaido will meet with Donald Trump at the White House Wednesday, a further signal of renewed support from the U.S. president for his bid to depose authoritarian President Nicolas Maduro.

Guaido was a surprise White House guest at Trump’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday, where the president called him Venezuela’s “legitimate president.” The leaders will discuss at the meeting Wednesday how to expedite a democratic transition in Venezuela to end the ongoing crisis, the White House said in a statement.

Trump’s public embrace of Guaido suggests the president still sees him as the best chance to replace Maduro, despite skepticism he’s voiced in recent months to aides.

Venezuela’s Guaido to Meet Trump at White House Today

“Maduro’s grip of tyranny will be smashed and broken,” Trump said in his speech on Tuesday. “All Americans are united with the Venezuelan people in their righteous struggle for freedom.”

After attending the State of the Union, Guaido thanked the U.S. for its commitment and support for Venezuela’s freedom. He spent the night at the Blair House, the official guest residence across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House.

“We are united, President Donald Trump. On behalf of millions of Venezuelans who continue to stand and fight: Thank you, people of the USA,” Guaido tweeted.

Guaido also met with Vice President Mike Pence at the U.S. Capitol this morning, according to four people with direct knowledge of the matter. U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, both from Florida, also attended the meeting, two of the people said.

The U.S. plans to escalate its pressure campaign on the Maduro regime over the next 30 days, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters ahead of the leaders’ meeting on condition of anonymity. While the official would only say that the administration was seeking new avenues to apply pressure across the federal government, the aide did say the U.S. was specifically concerned about Russian energy company Rosneft Oil Co. and warned other oil companies to tread carefully in the country.

The White House also warned that any harm to Guaido upon his return to Venezuela would be met forcefully, and said the administration would not be willing to engage in direct negotiations with Maduro.

Guaido’s visit to Washington capped a world tour during which he visited leaders in Europe and Canada in hopes of rallying new momentum for his cause after an attempted uprising against Maduro failed last year. Though nearly 60 countries have recognized Guaido as the leader of Venezuela, he’s made little progress in actually unseating the deeply entrenched Maduro regime.

Since Guaido defied a travel ban to leave Venezuela for a second time since last March, Maduro has widened his crackdown on his opponent, raiding Guaido’s offices in Eastern Caracas in late January. While Maduro hasn’t commented on Guaido’s visit to Washington, on Jan. 23 he said he hoped the Venezuelan justice system would take “necessary measures to achieve justice” upon his return.

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