Pompeo says Maduro knows he’s losing support in Venezuela

Maduro blocks humanitarian aid

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he sees obvious signs that President Nicolas Maduro is starting to understand Venezuelans reject him as their leader. Pompeo spoke with reporters Friday in Reykjavik, Iceland following an exclusive Associated Press interview with Maduro, who said he’s willing to meet President Donald Trump — any time or place.

Pompeo says Maduro’s request isn’t new, but it reflects that he’s realizing his crisis-riddled nation rejects his “model of governance.”

Maduro revealed to the AP that his government has had secret meeting with the U.S. to resolve the crisis. A State Department official did not deny to CBS News that these discussions had taken place. 

“The United States does not recognize the former Maduro regime as the Government of Venezuela and our position has not changed, but it should come as no surprise that State Department officials exchange opinions with a wide variety of foreign interlocutors, especially while we continue to take all steps to ensure the safety and security of our Embassy personnel on the ground in Caracas,” a State Department spokesperson said in a statement Friday. 

On Friday, the Treasury Department unveiled a new round of sanctions targeting Venezuelan officials. The sanctions apply to “five officials aligned with illegitimate former President Nicolas Maduro,” according to a release from the deparment. 

Maduro says he holds out hope of a meeting to resolve a crisis over America’s recognition of opponent Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful leader. The U.S. has been attempting to funnel humanitarian aid across the Columbian border, and will deliver an additional 250 tons of emergency supplies to the border town of Cucuta on Saturday. 

Previous deliveries of U.S. supplies had been delivered by civilian planes, but will be sent via military aircraft on Saturday. The move is an attempt to up the pressure on Venezuela to indicate that the U.S. is willing to use its military in this standoff with the Maduro regime.

Pompeo wouldn’t say whether he would send envoy Elliott Abrams to meet Maduro in Caracas. Maduro told the AP that his foreign minister has met Abrams twice in New York for talks.

Camilo Montoya-Galvez and Christina Ruffini contributed to this report.

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