Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro said he wants a meeting with President Donald Trump, the same man he ridicules as a crass imperial magnate, as the US weighs slapping crippling economic sanctions on his socialist administration.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza shot back on state television that the USA was "making a fool of itself in front of the world".
We can't allow "the dictatorship to hunt down, imprison and treat our mayors like criminals", said Andres Paez, a lawyer who joined the protest.
Maduro said he had also given orders, "if it can happen", for a face-to-face meeting to be organized in NY on September 20 at the annual gathering of heads of state and government from around the world at UN General Assembly.
Even world-renowned soccer superstar Diego Maradona expressed his support for Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution, saying on Facebook, "When Maduro orders, I am dressed as a soldier for a free Venezuela, to fight against imperialism". "Mr. Donald Trump, here is my hand".
The measures freeze any United States assets of those designated and bar Americans from doing business with them.
On Wednesday, a fifth opposition mayor in Venezuela was removed from his post.
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The United States hit Maduro with sanctions on July 31, the day after the election of the loyalist Constituent Assembly that Washington said was "illegitimate" and in service of a "dictator".
The Cuban president warns Nicolas Maduro that as a result of the holding of the elections to the Constituent Assembly "will come days of strong struggle, of global harassment, blockades, limitations".
More than 120 people have died in demonstrations against Maduro's rule since April.
In an address that repeatedly brought assembly members to their feet in applause, Maduro called for a new governance framework for Venezuela, aimed at "perfecting the constitution of 1999".
Met by rubber bullets, water cannon and tear gas fired by the National Guard, the protesters say the crisis demands an early presidential election that they are sure Maduro would lose. Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro on August 7 on his public television show Sundays with Maduro welcomed this intention to participate and again repeated his call for dialogue and reconciliation via the electoral route.
The assembly, being called a "legislative superbody" by the global press, was his creation and won approval in a national election on Sunday that the opposition made the huge mistake of boycotting because they said it was illegitimate.
WATCH Inside Story: Venezuela: New beginnings or more of the same?
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