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‘No evidence’ Maduro willing to hold free elections, Pompeo says in Costa Rica

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday that despite numerous contacts with foreign officials in recent months, there’s no sign Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is willing to hold free elections.

“There have been lots of conversations with Nicolas Maduro over these past months. There’s been no demonstration that he is prepared to permit free and open presidential elections,” Pompeo said in Costa Rica, the second stop of a tour of Latin America and the Caribbean.

An aide said Pompeo was referring to talks held with Norway, and not the United States.
Pompeo had been asked about Maduro’s interview with the Washington Post last weekend in which he said he was open to holding direct talks with Washington.

“We’ve seen no evidence that Maduro is remotely interested in having free and fair elections. He knows that he would lose,” Pompeo said.

Meanwhile, the US Treasury Department announced new sanctions against the socialist regime, blocking 15 aircraft used by state oil company PdVSA.

“Several PdVSA aircraft have been used to transport senior members of the former Maduro regime,” it said, adding that the planes would seized as “blocked property” if they entered the US.

Maduro told the Post in the interview published Sunday that direct talks would create “a new type of relationship” between the foes.

“If there’s respect between governments, no matter how big the United States is, and if there’s a dialogue, an exchange of truthful information, then be sure we can create a new type of relationship,” Maduro said.

The socialist leader said he was ready to hold talks with the US to negotiate an end to sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump intended to throttle the South American country’s oil industry and force Maduro from power.

Maduro indicated that, if Trump were to lift sanctions, US oil companies could benefit immensely from Venezuela’s oil.

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