Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on Jan. 14. Photo: Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro claimed in an interview with the Washington Post that he is comfortably in control of his country and open to direct negotiations with the U.S. to resolve their "confrontational relationship."

Why it matters: The Trump administration's bet that Maduro would fall in 2019 in the midst of an economic collapse, a massive refugee crisis and an international push for regime change appears to have failed.

What they're saying: “If there’s respect between governments, no matter how big the United States is, and if there’s a dialogue, an exchange of truthful information, then be sure we can create a new type of relationship,” Maduro told the Post.

  • Maduro suggested that U.S. companies could reap the benefit of Venezuelan oil if President Trump reset relations, but dismissed international opposition to his regime and made clear that he intends to remain in power.
  • “Do you want me to tell you the truth? I don’t care even a little bit about what Europe does, or about what the U.S. does," he said. "No matter how many thousand sanctions, they won’t stop us, or Venezuela.”
  • He also attacked hawks in the Trump administration for implementing hardline policies like the economic sanctions that have crippled the country, a line that other foreign adversaries like the Iranians have also echoed.
“I believe Mike Pompeo has failed in Venezuela and is responsible for Donald Trump’s failure in his policy toward our country. I think Pompeo lives in a fantasy. He’s not a man with his feet on earth. I think Trump has had terrible advisers on Venezuela. John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, Elliott Abrams have caused him to have a wrong vision.”
— Maduro

Former White House national security adviser John Bolton tweeted Sunday: "Maduro tells the Washington Post he wants negotiations with the United States? The only negotiations we should have with Maduro are what he wants for lunch on the plane that will take him to permanent exile in Cuba or Russia. Viva Venezuela libre."

The big picture: The U.S. and 60 other nations recognize opposition leader and the head Venezuela’s legislature Juan Guaidó as the country's legitimate president. Security forces this month attempted to block Guaidó from entering the country's National Assembly so the body could swear in a candidate loyal to Maduro as its leader.

  • Direct talks with the U.S. are unlikely. The Trump administration has repeatedly called for Maduro's exit from the presidential palace, and the talks would most likely bolster his legitimacy, strengthening his position.

Go deeper: Venezuela's Maduro survives 2019

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239 scientists call on WHO to recognize coronavirus as airborne

People walk at the boardwalk in Venice Beach. Photo: APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images

A group of 239 scientists in 32 countries are calling for the World Health Organization to revise its recommendations to account for airborne transmission as a significant factor in how the coronavirus spreads, the New York Times reports.

The big picture: The World Health Organization has said the virus mainly spreads via large respiratory droplets that fall to the ground once they've been discharged in coughs and sneezes. But the scientists say evidence shows the virus can spread from smaller particles that linger in air indoors.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 a.m. ET: 11,294,859 — Total deaths: 531,419 — Total recoveries — 6,078,552Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 a.m. ET: 2,839,917 — Total deaths: 129,676 — Total recoveries: 894,325 — Total tested: 34,858,427Map.
  3. States: Photos of America's pandemic July 4 ICU beds in Arizona hot spot near capacity.
  4. Public health: U.S. coronavirus infections hit record highs for 3 straight days.
  5. Politics: Trump extends PPP application deadlineKimberly Guilfoyle tests positive.
  6. World: Mexican leaders call for tighter border control as infections rise in U.S.
  7. Sports: 31 MLB players test positive as workouts resume.
  8. 1 📽 thing: Drive-in movie theaters are making a comeback.

Protesters toss Columbus statue into Baltimore’s Inner Harbor

Christopher Columbus statue in Columbus Piazza in Little Italy on April 9, 2015 in Baltimore. Photo: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Protesters in Baltimore on Saturday toppled a statue of Christopher Columbus and tossed it into the city's Inner Harbor, the Baltimore Sun reports.

Why it matters: It's the latest monument toppled by demonstrators during the protests against racism and police brutality. Statues of Confederate soldiers and slave owners have been a flashpoint in the protests.