February 26, 2019 / 5:53 PM / 21 days ago

Venezuela opposition's U.S. envoy asks Trump to step up pressure on Maduro

FILE PHOTO - Carlos Vecchio, the envoy to the U.S. for Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido, answers questions during an interview with Reuters in Washington, U.S., February 15, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

(Reuters) - The Venezuelan opposition’s envoy to the United States, Carlos Vecchio, met with U.S. President Donald Trump recently and asked him to increase pressure on socialist President Nicolas Maduro, Vecchio’s office said in a statement on Tuesday.

Vecchio wrote in a tweet that he met with Trump when the president made a speech in Florida. In the Feb. 18 speech, Trump warned members of Venezuela’s military who remain loyal to Maduro that they are risking their future and their lives and urged them to allow humanitarian aid into the country.

The United States was among the first countries to recognise opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader after he swore himself in as president last month, arguing Maduro’s May 2018 re-election was a sham.

The statement from the opposition’s envoy came a day after the United States targeted Venezuela’s government with new sanctions and called on allies to freeze the assets of state-owned oil company PDVSA after deadly violence blocked humanitarian aid from the country over the weekend.

Maduro denies his oil-rich nation has need for humanitarian aid and accuses Guaido of being a coup-mongering puppet for Trump.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said on Monday in Bogota that the aid blockage steeled the United States’ resolve to support Guaido.

Reporting by Luc Cohen; writing by Meredith Mazzilli; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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