President Donald Trump pledged more action to ramp up pressure on Venezuela’s embattled President Nicolas Maduro during a White House meeting Wednesday with Juan Guaido, the Venezuelan opposition leader who is recognized by the US and more than 50 countries as Venezuela’s interim president, a source familiar with the meeting said.
Meeting in the Oval Office, Trump told Guaido there would be new US government actions concerning Venezuela in the next month, the source said, although it wasn’t immediately clear what those actions might be. The US has been mulling additional sanctions targeting Russia for its ongoing oil purchases from Venezuela and the source said Guaido hoped Trump was referring to impending action on that front.
An administration official confirmed that additional action is coming but declined to detail what the next step will be.
Trump’s meeting with Guaido came at a crucial time for the Venezuelan opposition leader, whose efforts to unseat Maduro have faltered in recent months.
Guaido left his meeting with Trump feeling “upbeat, thinking this will help him regain momentum on the ground” in Venezuela, according to one source. But Guaido is also aware that he needs to move fast.
“He knows that time will be short for him to capitalize on all of this once he’s back,” the source said.
Speaking to reporters outside the State Department on Thursday, Guaido said he had “a very good meeting” with Trump” and that it “focused on actions to achieve the democracy, liberty in our continent, in our country, for our people who are starving at this moment.”
Guaido’s meeting with Trump came after his surprise appearance in the House gallery on Tuesday as a guest during Trump’s State of the Union address.
The White House began planning for Guaido’s surprise appearance two weeks ahead of the event, a source familiar with the matter said. The visit had been kept top secret at the request of the White House, which wanted it to be a surprise.
The White House made them vow to secrecy,” the source familiar with the matter said, noting that only Guaido, his ambassador to the United States, Carlos Vecchio, and opposition ally Julio Borges knew of the invitation. “They wanted a made-for-television moment.”
But the secretive planning came amid growing concerns within Venezuela’s opposition that Trump was snubbing Guaido.
Last month, Guaido held a large political rally in Miami while the President was golfing nearby at his Florida resort in Palm Beach, but the two did not meet, prompting concerns that the US had given up on Guaido as an alternative to Maduro.
Guaido had met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and several European leaders in recent weeks.
His attendance at the State of the Union prompted a standing ovation from members of Congress – one of the rare shows of bipartisan approval during the polarizing speech.
“He didn’t really understand the significance of that,” a source familiar with Guaido’s thinking said. “He thought they just always stand and clap when the President speaks.”
“He was happy when it was explained to him,” the source said.
Guaido is scheduled to return to Venezuela later Thursday, after meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Mark Green, the administrator of the US Agency for International Development, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
CNN’s Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.