Venezuela's defense minister asked Maduro to resign: Washington Post

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a news conference at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela January 9, 2019. REUTERS/Manaure Quintero

(Reuters) - Venezuela’s defense minister told socialist President Nicolas Maduro to step down last month, and said he would offer his own resignation if he did not, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday, citing an anonymous U.S. intelligence official.

Both Maduro and Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez are still in office. Maduro is set to be sworn in for a second six-year term on Thursday, though several countries in the region have warned him not to take office, calling his May 2018 re-election vote a sham.

Discontent within the military’s ranks has grown as Venezuela’s economic collapse has deepened, prompting millions to migrate. Security forces tortured dozens of military personnel accused of subversion last year, according to human rights groups, and detentions for desertion have increased.

A U.S. government source told Reuters the government believes reports that Padrino threatened to resign if Maduro did not depart are credible.

“Nobody (in the U.S. government) would be surprised if (Padrino) stepped back,” the source added.

Venezuela’s Information Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Reporting by Luc Cohen; Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball in Washington, D.C.; Editing by James Dalgleish