Venezuela’s Maduro: ‘Mr. Donald Trump, here is my hand’

Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro said Thursday he wants a meeting with President Donald Trump — the same man he ridicules as a crass imperial magnate and blasts for U.S. sanctions against officials in his socialist administration.

In a lengthy address to the 545 members of a new, all-powerful constitutional assembly, Maduro instructed Venezuela’s foreign minister to approach the United States about arranging a telephone conversation or meeting with Trump.

“Mr. Donald Trump, here is my hand,” the socialist president said, adding that he wants as strong a relationship with the U.S. as he has with Russia.

The remarks came shortly after Maduro forcefully warned the U.S. president that Venezuela “will never give in.”

The Trump administration has called Maduro a “dictator” and issued sanctions against him and more than two dozen other former and current officials, accusing Maduro’s government of violating human rights and undermining the country’s democracy amid an escalating political and financial crisis.

On Thursday, Credit Suisse bank banned the trading and use of Venezuelan bonds, citing “recent developments and the political climate” in the country.

The bank will no longer trade, nor accept as collateral, two specific types of Venezuelan securities as well as any bonds the country issued from June 1 going forward, according to a company spokeswoman who was not authorized to give her name. Further, any businesses who wish to do business with Venezuela and deal in any assets there will have to go through additional screening.

Venezuela is facing mounting international criticism over a crackdown on opponents and moves to consolidate power, including the selection of the all-powerful assembly controlled by Maduro.

It is also in the midst of a severe economic downturn caused by low oil prices and poor government policies. The country’s bonds are one of the few ways the current government is able to raise money to support its collapsing economy.

But as the country’s political crisis has worsened, the bonds issued by the government as well as the state-owned oil company PDVSA have become a point of contention and concern for investors who increasingly worry they are supporting an oppressive regime as well as a country that is a great risk of defaulting on its debts. Goldman Sachs came under political pressure earlier this year for buying a reported $2.8 billion in Venezuelan bonds on the open market at a significant discount.

National Assembly…

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