President Biden underscored U.S. support for Venezuela’s democratically-elected National Assembly in a phone call with opposition leader Juan Guaido while traveling to the Summit of the Americas in California.
Mr. Biden reaffirmed his support for negotiations between Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and the opposition “toward a peaceful restoration of democratic institutions, free and fair elections, and respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Venezuelans,” according to a White House readout of the call.
The president spoke from aboard Air Force One en route to Los Angeles, where the summit is being held on U.S. soil for the first time since its 1994 inaugural in Miami.
During the call, Mr. Biden said he was willing to “calibrate sanctions policy” toward Venezuela “as informed by the outcomes of negotiations.”
Venezuela was banned from this year’s summit along with Nicaragua and Cuba. The move to exclude the countries caused a backlash from other participants and cast a shadow on the summit meant to showcase U.S. leadership in the Western Hemisphere.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador declined to attend the summit over the exclusion of the three countries.
The White House stood by its decision Monday following Mexico’s announced boycott.
“We just don’t believe dictators should be invited,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters. “We don’t regret that and the president will stand by his principle.”
Mr. Biden has made several recent moves to ease pressure on Cuba and Venezuela put in place under the Trump administration in the hopes of improving U.S. relations with the two countries but faced bipartisan backlash in Congress for the gestures.
Despite Mr. Biden’s hope that easing some sanctions against Venezuela would encourage talks between the country’s socialist regime and the opposition, Mr. Maduro has yet to agree to talks.
- Guy Taylor contributed to this report.