Venezuela, U.S. Have Met 'Secretly' for Months, Maduro Says

Venezuela's Maduro says there has been contact with U.S. officials 'for months'

On Tuesday, US President Donald Trump confirmed that US officials are in talks with representatives of Venezuelan authorities at different levels. The U.S. later lifted sanctions for Figuera, who is now in the U.S. offering details about Maduro's rule and embezzlement schemes.

The US is one of more than 50 nations which do not recognise him as Venezuela's legitimate leader.

US Southern Command chief Admiral Craig Faller made the remarks in Rio de Janeiro as the United States kicked off its annual UNITAS maritime exercise involving nine Latin American countries as well as the UK, Portugal and Japan. Mr Trump declined to name the officials, but added "we are talking at a very high level".

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

'The US government focus continues to be to place focused and targeted pressure on an illegitimate regime to ensure there's a transition to a legitimate, democratic government, ' Faller said.

Maduro said he could not reveal details about which officials had been in contact with the Trump administration or what they had discussed, but that the goal of the discussions was to "normalise and resolve this conflict" between the two countries.

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Without confirming the dialogue with Cabello, a State Department officials on Monday had said that in "recent months, dozens of those who are thought to be Maduro's closest allies have tried to contact the U.S. to negotiate (Maduro's) exit" from power.

A US official told AP the goal is not to prop up Cabello or pave the way for him to substitute Maduro, but to ratchet up pressure on the regime by contributing to the knife fight the USA believes is taking place behind the scenes among competing circles of power within the ruling party. Maduro decided not to send his delegation due to "serious and brutal aggression" by the Trump administration, including the illegal blockade of economic and financial activity, the government said.

Cabello said at a socialist party event Monday that he's long stood welcome to talk to anyone, so long as Maduro approves of the exchange.

Guaido declared himself interim president in January, arguing that Maduro's victory in last year's elections was fraudulent.

Cabello said that such talks are only possible under four conditions.

The meetings with US officials have been shrouded in total secrecy, Maduro said. "Ones that are less belligerent than they've used up till now".

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