March 23, 2019 / 12:34 AM / a month ago

Venezuela national soccer coach offers to resign after meeting Guaido envoy

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - International Friendly - Argentina v Venezuela - Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid, Spain - March 22, 2019 Venezuela coach Rafael Dudamel REUTERS/Juan Medina

(Reuters) - The coach of Venezuela’s national soccer team said on Friday he had offered to resign after meeting with opposition leader Juan Guaido’s envoy to Spain, in the midst of a power struggle between Guaido and socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

After a 3-1 victory over Argentina in Spain, the coach, Rafael Dudamel, said he had spoken with officials from Venezuela’s soccer federation and “put my role up for review” following his meeting with Antonio Ecarri, designated by Guaido as his ambassador to Spain, before the game in Madrid.

Guaido, the head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, invoked Venezuela’s constitution to assume an interim presidency in January, arguing Maduro’s 2018 re-election was fraudulent. Most Western nations, including Spain, have recognised Guaido as the country’s rightful leader.

He has designated representatives to a number of countries that have disavowed Maduro’s government. Maduro calls Guaido a puppet of the United States, and says he is the victim of an attempted U.S.-led coup.

“We have been living through very complicated times, and we are very politicized,” Dudamel told reporters after the game. “We respectfully received the visit of the ambassador, Mr. Antonio Ecarri ... just as we have [in the past] received the ambassador of President Maduro.”

He later accused Guaido and Ecarri of “politicizing” the visit, telling CNN the meeting took place on the condition that any photographs or videos of the meeting would be for “internal consumption.” Guaido had earlier tweeted a video of Ecarri speaking with the players.

“Today was denigrating, it’s unfortunate how they have acted,” Dudamel said.

A spokesman for Guaido did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Venezuela’s information ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Dudamel said he would remain as coach for now and planned to be on hand for the national team’s next game on Monday against Catalonia.

Reporting by Vivian Sequera, Deisy Buitrago and Luc Cohen in Caracas, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien

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