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Venezuela’s Maduro calls for talks with Trump

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a meeting with members of the Constituent Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela August 2, 2017.

Miraflores Palace via Reuters

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a meeting with members of the Constituent Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela August 2, 2017.

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has called on President Donald Trump to engage in a “personal conversation” just days after being hit with new sanctions by the U.S.

The U.S. Treasury Department brandished the socialist leader a “dictator” last week and issued a string of new sanctions against him and a number of Venezuelan officials after the government staged what many observers said was a fraudulent vote to create an all-powerful legislative body.

However, Maduro, himself a tough critic of Trump, reached out to Trump Thursday during his first address to the new constituent assembly, and asked to meet with the president next month, when they are both due to attend that UN General Assembly in New York.

“If he (Trump) is so interested in Venezuela, here I am,” he said in his three-hour address to the 545 member assembly.

“Mr Donald Trump, here is my hand.”

The legislative body was voted into power in an election at the end of July and allows the government to rewrite legislation, though critics argue the result was illegitimate and an attempt by Maduro to cling onto power.

The vote has also prompted a number of corporations to take action against the country. On Thursday, Credit Suisse barred transactions involving certain Venezuelan bonds and business with Venezuela’s government and related agencies has to undergo reputation risk reviews. This comes after Goldman Sachs faced scrutiny for buying $2.8 billion in bonds issues by state oil company PDVSA.

“In light of the political climate and recent events in Venezuela … we want to ensure that Credit Suisse does not provide the means for anyone to violate the human rights of the Venezuelan people,” Reuters said, citing a Credit Suisse memo.

The U.S., which relies on Venezuela for oil imports, is yet to place sanctions on the oil industry. Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves but its economy has been badly hurt by a fall in oil prices over recent years.

Maduro, during the same speech Thursday, also hit out at “imperialists”, who he accused of undermining his leadership, saying “we will never cede to foreign powers.”

He added that Venezuela would challenge the sanctions in a U.S. court.

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