US President Joe Biden reaffirmed support for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido in a phone call Wednesday, despite not including him in this week’s major Latin America summit in Los Angeles.
Biden also said that the United States was ready to provide incentives to President Nicolas Maduro — who was also not invited — if the leftist leader negotiates a compromise with the opposition.
In a statement following Biden’s call with Guaido while aboard Air Force One, the White House made clear it still considers him the “interim president” of Venezuela.
Biden “expressed his support for Venezuelan-led negotiations as the best path toward a peaceful restoration of democratic institutions, free and fair elections,” the White House statement said.
“President Biden reaffirmed the United States is willing to calibrate sanctions policy as informed by the outcomes of negotiations that empower the Venezuelan people to determine the future of their country.”
Former president Donald Trump in 2019 declared Maduro to be illegitimate following elections in which wide irregularities were reported.
Trump ramped up sanctions in a bid to topple Maduro, who presided over a crumbling economy that led millions to flee.
Most Western and Latin American nations joined suit in recognizing Guaido but some have since privately conceded that Maduro has withstood the pressure.
Guaido, in a statement from his office, thanked the United States for support and said that any shift in international pressure needed to secure “a negotiated exit to the crisis that results in free, fair and verifiable elections.”
Raising a major issue for the United States at the summit, Guaido said that “the growing Venezuelan migration will only stop when there is a transition to democracy.”
Biden, hoping to champion democracy, refused to invite Maduro or the leftist leaders of Cuba and Nicaragua on the grounds that they are authoritarians.
The snub led to a boycott of the summit by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, one of the few major Latin American leaders whose government still recognizes Maduro.
The Mexican president’s threats not to come led the United States to try and reach halfway arrangements including inviting a lower-level official from Cuba.