(CNSNews.com) – Venezuela’s beleaguered President Nicolás Maduro turned up unexpectedly at the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday to deliver a rambling speech mostly criticizing the U.S. – but also surprising the gathering by expressing a willingness to meet with President Trump.
Maduro noted that Trump had told reporters earlier in the day that he would meet with Maduro if that would help save the lives of suffering Venezuelans.
Despite “enormous” ideological, historical and social differences between Venezuela and the U.S., and despite the fact that he was a “a man of the people” and not a wealthy magnate, Maduro said, “I am willing to reach out my hand to the president of the United States, Donald Trump, and discuss these matters bilaterally.”
He said Venezuela has no problem with the United States, and appreciates its culture and art, but “we are against the imperialists in charge of power in Washington.”
“Donald Trump said he was worried about Venezuela, he wanted to help Venezuela. Good,” said Maduro. “I stand ready to talk with an open agenda on everything that he might wish to talk about, with the United States government – openly, sincerely, honestly.”
Speaking to reporters in New York earlier Wednesday, Trump was asked about a possible meeting with Maduro and replied, “If I had time, I would.”
Saying the Venezuelan people were suffering under Maduro, he added that he would “certainly be open” to a meeting.
“I’m willing to meet with anybody – anytime I can save lives and help people.”
Trump was also asked whether all options were still on the table in dealing with Maduro, and answered in the affirmative.
“All options are on the table. Every one. Strong ones and the less-than-strong ones. Every option – and you know what I mean by ‘strong.’ Every option is on the table, with respect to Venezuela.”
Maduro spoke for 49 minutes. By contrast most world leaders’ speeches in New York this week have been under 20 minutes, although French President Emmanuel Macron spoke for 45 minutes. Trump’s speech was about 36 minutes long.
Maduro, who skipped the last two General Assembly high-level sessions, said last week he’d probably not go to New York this year, citing fears for his safety.
In his speech he portrayed his government as under direct assault from forces in the U.S., pointing to reports in the New York Times this month claiming that U.S. officials had met with Venezuelan military officers who were plotting a coup against his government.
(U.S. officials had reportedly met several times with the Venezuelans at their request, but decided against providing support to any coup plan.)
He also spoke at some length about a drone attack that apparently targeting him during a military parade in Caracas last month. Captured plotters in the attack – which he described as the first use by terrorists of a drone to carry out an attack in history – had confessed that it had been “prepared and funding from” U.S. territory.
Maduro said the aim of the “terrorist attack” was to sow chaos in Venezuela that would lead to military intervention.
He urged countries to support his call for an international investigation to discover the truth behind the attack.
To his Latin American and Caribbean counterparts, Maduro asked, “How many military interventions occurred, how many coup d’état’s, how many dictatorships were imposed on us in the course of the 20th century?”
Those episodes, he said, were “because of the United States’ actions and their belief in the Munroe Doctrine which said that we could not govern ourselves as we saw fit.”
Maduro’s economic and political policies have been blamed for impoverishing the oil-rich country. In a recent speech in Geneva the U.N. human rights chief said that some seven percent of Venezuela’s population – an estimated 2.3 million people – had fled the country in recent times, “due largely to lack of food or access to critical medicines and the care, insecurity and political persecution.”
But in his speech he was unapologetic, describing Venezuela as “a country that is building its own social model, its own kind of democracy” and “a new kind of social economy” – socialism in the 21st century.
As he finished his speech, the Venezuelan delegation headed by Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza gave him a standing ovation, joined by some other delegates in the assembly hall.