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Venezuela's socialist leader offers olive branch to Trump while bashing him

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro addresses the all-powerful constitutional assembly, which has taken over the National Assembly and tasked with rewriting the constitution, on Thursday in Caracas. (Getty Images)

Socialist Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro offered his hand in friendship to President Donald Trump this week while accusing Trump of backing an attack on a Venezuelan military base last weekend.

According to the BBC, during a three-hour address to his new all-powerful constitutional assembly Thursday, Maduro instructed Venezuela's foreign minister to arrange a meeting or phone call with Trump during next month's United Nations General Assembly.

"If he's so interested in Venezuela, here I am," Maduro said. "Mr. Donald Trump, here is my hand."

Maduro said that he hopes to have as strong a relationship with the United States as Venezuela does with Russia, the BBC reported.

In the same speech, however, Maduro called America an "imperialist government" attempting to overthrow the Venezuelan government. Maduro went on to claim that Trump played a part in a failed attack on a Venezuelan military base Sunday.

Maduro's anti-America speech came just a day after Trump approved more sanctions on Venezuela. According to Reuters, the sanctions targeted eight individual Venezuelan politicians and security personnel. The Treasury Department froze their U.S. assets and prohibited Americans from doing business with them. The U.S. government has also banned them from travel to the United States.

Reuters reported last week that the U.S. also hit Maduro himself with sanctions, as well as 13 individuals in July.

The sanctions came after Maduro held what many observers called an illegitimate election to hand unlimited power to Venezuela's ruling party. Despite the election's outcome favoring Maduro's socialist party, CBS News reported that opinion polls showed that "85 percent of Venezuelans disapproved of the constitutional assembly and similar numbers disapproved of Maduro's overall performance."

"Yesterday's illegitimate elections confirm that Maduro is a dictator who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people. By sanctioning Maduro, the United States makes clear our opposition to the politics of his regime and our support for the people of Venezuela who seek to return their country to a full and prosperous democracy," Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in July, shortly after the election.

Maduro seemed undeterred by the sanctions, however.

"They don't intimidate me. The threats and sanctions of the empire don't intimidate me for a moment," Maduro said in July, according to CBS News. "I don't listen to orders from the empire, not now or ever. ... Bring on more sanctions, Donald Trump."

These sanctions came at a time that Venezuela has experienced a massive civil crisis due to Maduro's mismanagement of the Venezuelan economy. The Venezuelan currency, the bolivar, is reportedly worth less than the digital currency used within the game World of Warcraft. Inflation is expected to increase 720 percent this year and to increase further by a staggering 2,068 percent in 2018.

Also, the people of Venezuela are facing a massive food shortage. A February study showed that 75 percent of Venezuelans were losing dangerous amounts of weight. And everyday necessities, such as toilet paper and baby formula, are almost completely unavailable.

The crisis drove many to protest and riot in the streets. A former Venezuelan general said in May that Venezuela is on the brink of a civil war due to the increase in civil unrest.

While war has not broken out yet, footage of Venezuelan authorities using brutal violence to quell riots and protests has come out of Venezuela. This includes a burning armored personnel carrier running over a protester and Venezuelan officers beating a man in the street.

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