Trump Officials Consider Power-Sharing Plan to Oust Maduro
- Venezuela opposition would govern with Maduro backers
- U.S. unsuccessfully backed similar approach last year
By Saleha Mohsin and Ben Bartenstein/Bloomberg
Petroleumworld 02 21 2020
Trump administration officials are discussing whether to renew their unsuccessful campaign to oust Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro by persuading some ruling party members to temporarily share power with opposition leaders, according to people familiar with the matter.
The U.S. pursued a similar strategy last year -- endorsed by opposition leader Juan Guaido, president of the Venezuelan National Assembly -- that included a failed uprising on April 30. But some of the officials think they may have a better chance of success now as new sanctions kick in, the people said.
The Trump administration has recently ramped up efforts to oust Maduro and rally international support behind Guaido. On Tuesday, Washington sanctioned a unit of Russia's largest oil producer, Rosneft PJSC , for maintaining ties with Maduro and state-run oil company PDVSA .
Venezuela's economic collapse is dragging into its seventh full year, aggravated by international sanctions that prohibit exports of oil to the U.S. and cut access to external financing.
The White House and spokespeople for Maduro and Guaido didn't immediately respond to requests for comment on a potential power-sharing arrangement.
Last year, the U.S. sought to topple Maduro by agreeing to give power to others in his regime. But the administration said some of those officials reneged on the deal at the last minute.
Senior U.S. officials discussed power sharing with Guaido during his visit to Washington earlier this month, the people said. They asked not to be identified because the talks were private.
Related: Guaido Returns to Clashes in Venezuela After Meeting Trump
Both sides had considered sanctions as key to uprooting Maduro but are now discussing whether a temporary power-sharing arrangement would help them more quickly reach their goal of free and fair elections, the people said.
There's no sign Maduro would accept such an agreement. He has repeatedly rejected the idea of stepping down and abandoned talks with the opposition in Barbados last August in protest of new U.S. sanctions. After leading Venezuela's economy over a cliff, the autocratic leader has brought a degree of stability by allowing dollars to flow more freely in recent months.
But the U.S. could seek a power-sharing agreement over Maduro's objection by again trying to persuade his deputies, or other supporters, to turn against him. Still, there's push-back within the Trump administration about including anyone from Maduro's inner circle in such an agreement, the people familiar with the matter said.
It's not clear whether officials have raised discussions about power sharing with Trump.
Trump repeatedly has reaffirmed his commitment to ousting Maduro. In his State of the Union speech earlier this month, Trump promised to break Maduro's “grip of tyranny” as Guaido, who's recognized by the U.S. and almost 60 other nations as head of state, watched in the gallery.
— With assistance by Alex Vasquez, Jordan Fabian, and Patricia Laya
By Saleha Mohsin and Ben Bartenstein from Bloomberg
bloomberg.com 02 20 2020
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