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President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, speaks at a press conference with international media at the Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Aug. 2. 2017. EFE/CRISTIAN HERNANDEZ
President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, speaks at a press conference with international media at the Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Aug. 2. 2017. EFE/CRISTIAN HERNANDEZ

Venezuelan president plans overture to Trump

The Trump administration has already imposed sanctions on Maduro and members of his government and Washington has indicated that it is prepared to go further.

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 Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro said Tuesday that he plans to write to US President Donald Trump in a bid to reduce tensions between Caracas and Washington.

"I am going to send a letter to Trump very soon, because I'm certain that if he reads it with a little goodwill, many things can change for the good, and I want relations with the United States to change for the good," the leftist head of state told a press conference.

"I hope he reads it and I hope that ... sooner rather than later, we can have telephonic contact," Maduro said.

It was nearly two weeks ago that Maduro instructed Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza to start the process of arranging a phone call with the US president, only for Trump to publicly reject any contact with the Venezuelan.

Denouncing Maduro as a dictator, Trump said that his administration would not rule out a "possible military option" to address the situation in Venezuela, where months of politically motivated violence have left more than 100 dead, including both supporters and opponents of the government.

"The path of the world has to be the path of dialogue," Maduro said Tuesday, though reminding reporters that his government has scheduled massive military readiness exercises for next week.

He went on to say that the Venezuelan armed forces have "various missile systems, defensive, ground-to-ground, ground-to-air, the various kinds of artillery, of anti-aircraft defense," all acquired from Russia in the framework of military cooperation.

"So I can tell you that Venezuela, together with Russia, has built a fortress for our sovereign defense because we Venezuelans - and nobody else - will defend this territory," Maduro said.

The Trump administration has already imposed sanctions on Maduro and members of his government and Washington has indicated that it is prepared to go further.

Amid public speculation about possible US measures targeting Venezuela's vital oil industry, Maduro said that he has devised a package of measures to "defend ourselves from the trade, petroleum and financial blockade that Donald Trump is going to order."

Maduro said that his government is analyzing the range of possible economic scenarios in partnership with the National Constituent Assembly, a body with sweeping powers that the opposition - supported by many foreign governments - rejects as illegitimate.

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