Caracas: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro met with US Senator Bob Corker on Friday, the socialist-led government said, less than a week after Maduro was re-elected to a six-year term in a vote US did not recognize.
The election prompted a further deterioration in relations between the two countries. US responded to the vote, which it called undemocratic, with additional sanctions, prompting Venezuela to expel the top two US diplomats posted in Caracas. US responded with a similar move.
“It was a very good meeting, it is good news for the Venezuelan people," Venezuelan information minister Jorge Rodriguez told reporters, without providing details of what the officials discussed.
State television images showed Maduro and Corker, a Tennessee Republican and the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, shaking hands in the Miraflores presidential palace, though neither offered statements to the media.
US lawmakers have previously held discussions with Venezuelan officials on the release of Josh Holt, a US citizen and Mormon missionary from Utah imprisoned in the South American country since 2016 on weapons charges. US officials say Venezuela is using Holt as a bargaining chip in sanctions talks.
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Venezuela’s economy is experiencing a fifth year of contraction, with hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicines prompting mass emigration. US has sanctioned individuals linked to Maduro in recent months, accusing them of corruption.
Maduro frequently accuses Washington of conspiring to overthrow his government and seize control of Venezuela’s oil reserves, the largest in the world, and has said US’ “economic war" is to blame for the country’s woes.