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Trump envoy and Maduro strong man Rodriguez meet secretly in Mexico

cnnespanol

I would only meet with Maduro to discuss one thing: a peaceful exit from power!-Trump tweet

- Former German ambassador met Maduro representative in Mexico
- Talks unsuccessful, as Trump seeks foreign policy victories

By Jennifer Jacobs and Ben Bartenstein/Bloomberg

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK
Petroleumworld 10 22 2020

An influential Trump administration official secretly met with a representative of Nicolas Maduro's regime in Mexico City in September to try to negotiate the Venezuelan leader's peaceful exit from power.

Richard Grenell, the former Acting U.S. director of National Intelligence and ambassador to Germany, and Jorge Rodriguez, a Venezuelan politician who is close to Maduro, met in the Mexican capital, according to four people familiar with the matter. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and the rest of the State Department weren't told about the trip beforehand, according to two of the people.

Grenell sought to discuss Maduro's departure, two of the people said, but it isn't clear if Rodriguez and Maduro were open to the possibility. In any event, the talks weren't successful, the people said.

President Donald Trump has tried to achieve a number of foreign policy accomplishments before the Nov. 3 election, including Middle East peace agreements, troop withdrawals from several countries and the release of U.S. hostages believed to be held in Syria.

U.S. officials gave conflicting accounts on whether Grenell's trip to meet Rodriguez was authorized, although two people familiar with the matter said Trump's national security adviser, Robert O'Brien, signed off on it with the president's blessing.

But Pompeo and the State Department's envoy for Venezuela, didn't know about Grenell's trip until after it was over. The U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Christopher Landau, also wasn't briefed in advance of the travel, according to a person close to him.

Rodriguez flew to Mexico late on Sept. 16 aboard one of Venezuela's presidential planes disguised on the flight log as a trip by the national airline Conviasa, according to one person familiar with his travel.

Rodriguez declined to comment, as did spokespeople for the White House National Security Council and the State Department.

The people familiar with the Venezuela talks asked not to be identified because they were never announced.

The Trump campaign has been courting Venezuelans who fled their country and became U.S. citizens. Many live in Florida, a battleground state where elections are often decided by slim margins.

With assistance by Nick Wadhams

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