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LATIN AMERICA | 03-02-2021 23:32

Biden team sees no contact 'anytime soon' with Venezuela's Maduro

United States says it had no plans to open direct contacts with Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro, who has called for improved relations after Donald Trump's exit from the White House.

US President Joe Biden's administration said Wednesday it had no plans to open direct contacts with Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro, who has called for improved relations after Donald Trump's efforts to topple him.

"We certainly don't expect any contact with Maduro anytime soon," US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters, calling the leftist leader a "dictator."

Price said that Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris would continue Trump's policy of recognising opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the interim president.

Guaidó rooted his legitimacy in his election by the opposition-led National Assembly – before December 2020 elections won by Maduro's forces in polls widely seen internationally as rigged.

"The overriding goal of the Biden-Harris administration is to support a peaceful, democratic transition in Venezuela through free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections and to help the Venezuelan people rebuild their lives and country," Price said. "Maduro is a dictator. His repression, corruption and mismanagement have generated one of the most dire humanitarian crises this hemisphere has seen."

Maduro after Biden's inauguration said he wanted to forge a "new path" with the United States after Trump's defeat.

The firebrand leader called for a relationship based on "mutual respect, dialogue, communication and understanding."

Trump in January 2019 declared that Maduro was illegitimate and had to go, with more than 50 other nations including most of Europe and Latin America agreeing that Guaidó was the rightful interim president.

But despite an intense sanctions campaign by Trump, Maduro remains in power and enjoys continued support from the military as well as Russia, China and Cuba.

In one shift from Trump, Price confirmed that the Biden administration would let the roughly 200,000 Venezuelans in the United States stay.

Price said that Biden intended to declare so-called "Temporary Protected Status" for Venezuelans -- which shields them from deportation and gives them the right to work in the United States.

Trump, despite his bellicose language against Maduro including hints he was ready to use military force, refused to extend protected status to Venezuelans, part of his anti-immigration agenda.

But some political pundits say that Trump nevertheless succeeded politically by making inroads within the Venezuelan-US community, helping him win the crucial state of Florida.

More than five million Venezuelans have fled in recent years as they escape a crumbling economy in which food and medicine staples have become unattainable for many.

– AFP

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