September 23, 2019 / 3:36 PM / a month ago

Venezuela opposition sees Trump role as 'clear sign' of more pressure on Maduro

FILE PHOTO: Representative of the Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, Julio Borges, is pictured during an interview with Reuters as he attends a summit to discuss the political crisis in Venezuela, in Lima, Peru, August 6, 2019. REUTERS/Guadalupe Pardo

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump’s attendance at a meeting solely about Venezuela during the U.N. General Assembly this week was a “clear sign” that pressure on President Nicolas Maduro would increase, Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido’s chief diplomat said on Monday.

Trump and U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are expected to attend a meeting with Western Hemisphere leaders to discuss Venezuela on Wednesday, envoy Julio Borges told reporters.

Guaido - who in January invoked Venezuela’s constitution to assume a rival presidency, arguing Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate - is seeking to use the U.N. meeting to pressure Latin American and European countries to take actions to force Maduro out of power.

More than a week ago, Guaido announced the end of a dialogue process between Maduro and the opposition, brokered by Norway’s Foreign Ministry, arguing the socialist government was not serious about reaching a deal for new elections.

“Since it was Maduro who closed the door in the face of a solution that would have built an absolutely democratic transition process by going to elections, that means now it is up to us to write a new chapter of sanctions and pressure,” Borges said.

Guaido has been recognised as Venezuela’s rightful leader by the United States and most Western countries, but Maduro retains the recognition of the 193-member U.N. General Assembly.

Maduro calls Guaido a U.S.-backed puppet seeking to oust him in a coup, and says his representatives walked away from the negotiating table in protest against U.S. sanctions.

Borges on Monday met with U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who in a July report found that Venezuelan security forces had committed thousands of extrajudicial killings as part of Maduro’s crackdown on dissent.

Borges said they discussed ways to “deepen” the investigation into rights violations in Venezuela as well as “punish” those responsible, without giving details.

Reporting by Luc Cohen; Editing by Mary Milliken and Grant McCool

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