FILE - In this Jan. 24, 2019 file photo, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, right, speaks with Constitutional Assembly President Diosdado Cabello at the Supreme Court during an annual ceremony that marks the start of the judicial year in Caracas, Venezuela. The U.S. has opened up secret communications with Cabello as members of Maduro’s inner circle seek guarantees they won’t face retribution if they cede to growing demands to remove him, a senior administration official told The Associated Press on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos, File)

AP Exclusive: US talks secretly to Venezuela socialist boss

August 18, 2019 - 7:14 pm

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — A senior Trump administration official has told the AP that the U.S. has opened up secret communications with Venezuela's socialist party boss as members of President Nicolás Maduro's inner circle seek guarantees they won't face retribution if they cede to growing demands to remove him.

The U.S. official said Diosdado Cabello met last month in Caracas with someone who is in close contact with the Trump administration.

The AP is withholding the intermediary's name out of concern the person could suffer reprisals. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because they aren't authorized to discuss the talks.

Cabello is considered the second most-powerful person in Venezuela after Maduro. But he's also been accused of being behind massive corruption, drug trafficking and even death threats against a sitting U.S. senator.

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