UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Eric Prince, the founder of the controversial private security firm Blackwater and a prominent supporter of US President Donald Trump, paid a secret visit to Venezuela last month and met with Vice President Nicolas Maduro and one of his closest allies, according to five sources familiar with the matter.
The visit came eight months after Prince proposed a plan to deploy a special army to help the Venezuelan opposition topple Maduro. The source described this visit as “communication” from Prince with the Maduro government.
The issues discussed by Prince, brother of Betsy Devos, the Education Secretary of the Trump administration, were not known with Rodriguez. Bloomberg was the first to publish the news of this meeting.
The meeting with Rodriguez, who is under US sanctions, may raise questions about whether Prince violates the US law that prohibits Americans from conducting any commercial dealings with individuals sanctioned, particularly with the Venezuelan government. The office of the Vice-President of Venezuela also oversees the National Intelligence Service.
One of the sources said that Prince informed a White House official of the planned meeting before his visit to Venezuela, but it was not known whether he had requested approval or advice.
The White House declined to comment when asked whether US officials had been notified in advance of a visit to Prince, or whether the visit was a possible line of contact with the Maduro government. In January, Washington recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido, a legitimate president of Venezuela, and began boosting sanctions and diplomatic pressure in an attempt to topple Madro.
Maduro remains in power. A senior administration official told Reuters in October that Trump’s frustration with the lack of results had prompted his aides to prepare for other measures.
Prince Cohen’s spokesman, Mark Cohen, declined to comment. Rodriguez did not respond to questions via text messages. Her brother Jorge Rodriguez, Minister of Information, did not respond to a request for comment.
Elliott Abrams, the US State Department’s special envoy to Venezuela, denied any knowledge of the Prince meeting. “Neither the meeting nor any offers made on behalf of the United States government, and such offers appear to be in breach of US sanctions,” he said.
“The United States fully supports Juan Guaido and looks forward to his re-election as President of the National Assembly.”
The five sources told Reuters that Prince, a businessman known for his right-wing views, visited Caracas on November 20 and 21 and met with Rodriguez, one of the leaders of the ruling Socialist Party in Venezuela, and Maduro appointed her as vice president last year.
“It was more than just a private working visit,” said a Venezuelan source in Washington who had contacts with both the opposition and the Maduro government about Prince’s visit.
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for OBSERVATORY NEWS from different countries around the world – material edited and published by OBSERVATORY staff in our newsroom.
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