White house: Trump to discuss Venezuela with Colombian president

Colombian President Ivan Duque to meet next week at the White House with US President Donald Trump to discuss the situation in Venezuela. (AFP pic)

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump will host his Colombian counterpart Ivan Duque next week for talks on efforts to oust leftist strongman Nicolas Maduro from power in Venezuela, the White House said Wednesday.

The visit by Duque and his wife to the White House on Feb 13 “will build upon the strong partnership that exists between their nations in pursuit of a more prosperous, secure, and democratic Western Hemisphere,” Trump’s press office said in a statement.

“Efforts to restore democracy in Venezuela” will be under discussion, along with economic, regional security, counter-narcotics and terrorism issues, the statement said.

Colombia has borne the brunt of a refugee exodus from Venezuela, which is in chaos as Maduro struggles to hold onto power and the oil-rich country’s once prosperous economy slides into ruin.

Washington has recognised opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president and, backed by Colombia, Brazil and other major regional players, is attempting to pressure Maduro to step down.

For his part, Maduro accuses the United States of fomenting a coup and says that military deserters who fled to Colombia have become mercenaries intent on bringing his government down.

The Trump administration has repeatedly said that “all options” are possible.

Last month, Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton created a stir when he appeared at a press conference carrying a notepad on which the phrase “5,000 troops to Colombia” had been written. This prompted speculation that Washington was either preparing to deploy troops against Venezuela or just dropping hints in order to pressure Maduro.