By Peter Spinella (dpa)
HAVANA TIMES – Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro on Wednesday in a show of support for the Venezuelan leader amid mounting pressure from the United States.
Putin reaffirmed Russia’s support for Maduro as Venezuela’s “legitimate authority” and noted the close military ties between the countries, according to opening comments transcribed for the public.
Russia, one of the crisis-hit Venezuelan government’s strongest backers, expressed support earlier this month for Maduro’s efforts to counter “attempts by the United States to change the legally elected government.”
Russian defense specialists have conducted at least two publicized visits to Venezuela this year as the countries maintain close military ties.
Putin noted strengthening economic ties, saying trade had increased 10 per cent in recent months, and pledged to provide medical supplies to Venezuela as part of a humanitarian effort.
Putin also encouraged Maduro to negotiate with Venezuela’s political opposition, saying it would be “irrational” not to.
Maduro replied that together with Russia, Venezuela could “overcome any difficulties.” He noted ongoing talks with Russia for providing food and medical supplies, among other issues.
The US, which wants Maduro to resign as the oil-dependent South American state teeters on the brink of collapse, broadened its sanctions against Venezuela’s oil sector this week.
“Venezuela’s oil belongs to the Venezuelan people and should not be used as a bargaining tool to prop up dictators,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
Maduro announced his visit to Russia on Monday, shortly after the Organization of American States, which comprises all countries of North and South America, adopted a resolution condemning Maduro’s government as an “illegitimate regime.”