US Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams told EFE on Wednesday that top officials with the Venezuelan government who allegedly were negotiating with the opposition for President Nicolas Maduro to step down have "turned off their cellphones."
"I've run across the fact that many of them have turned off their cellphones," Abrams said in an interview with EFE.
The US government on Tuesday said that three key officials with the Maduro government - Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino, Supreme Court of Justice president Maikel Moreno and Presidential Honor Guard commander Ivan Rafael Hernandez Dala - were negotiating with the opposition to break with Maduro and back Juan Guaido, who has been recognized as the country's interim president by 54 nations.
When asked if Padrino, Moreno and Hernandez Dala are the ones who have turned off their cellphones, Abrams said only that "I'm referring to many people at top levels of the Venezuelan government."
Abrams said that these three officials were participating in negotiations with the opposition - to which he said the US was not a party - and had been discussing a political transition with "guarantees to respect the dignity of people such as Maduro so that he could step down with honor."
"They talked and talked and talked and when the time for action came, they were not willing to take it," Abrams said, referring to Padrino, Moreno and Hernandez Dala.
"Why? What was the role of the Russians, what was the role of the Cubans? Right now, we're trying to get answers to those questions, but we know that there have been a couple of arrests of leaders in the intelligence service and the military," Abrams said.
The Venezuelan government has not confirmed the arrest of any top military or intelligence official as a result of the uprising headed on Tuesday by Guaido that resulted in massive demonstrations in which one person died and about 80 were injured, including eight members of the security forces loyal to Maduro.
"What I think is that starting now Maduro must know that he doesn't have the support of those who have promised it to him and even those on his side. Now, each of them knows that he needs to go," Abrams emphasized.
Maduro accused the US of supporting the "coup d'etat" headed by Guaido and on Wednesday called his followers into the streets to celebrate May Day or Workers Day.
The US was the first country to recognize Guaido as Venezuela's president after on Jan. 23 he proclaimed himself the country's interim leader invoking the Constitution, saying that as president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly he could declare himself to be the interim head of state in the face of what he called Maduro's "usurpation" of power.