Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro vows not to “betray” his own country by giving in to desires of US President Donald Trump’s administration for toppling the incumbent government in Caracas, calling on the international community to “stop the madness” of the American leader.
The Latin American president, made the remarks in an exclusive interview with Russia’s RT Spanish TV channel conducted on Monday and published on Tuesday, stressing that he would not be remembered as a leader who showed weakness and ignorance to his nation.
“I do not care how I’m going to go down in history. I’m not going to be a traitor, a weak one, like a man who turned his back on his historic commitments to his people,” he said.
Maduro’s comments come as oil-rich Venezuela plunged into an unprecedented political turmoil in the past couple of weeks, with the opposition, holding widespread anti-government protests, blaming him over an ailing economy, hyperinflation, power cuts, and shortages of basic items.
Political crisis further deepened considerably in the South American country on January 23, when opposition figure Juan Guaido, a lawmaker who leads the defunct National Assembly, proclaimed himself the “interim president” of the country. Trump was quick in officially recognizing him as such, a move that infuriated Caracas.
“I take advantage of every means of communication to ask the whole world to denounce and stop the madness of Donald Trump. Venezuela is never going to give in,” Maduro added, stressing that “a wave of conscience” globally would lead to a “repudiation” of the American president.
Maduro also accused Trump of concealing his real motive of stealing Venezuela’s vast natural resources behind his regime-change posture, because the Latin American country does not “have weapons of mass destruction” and is not a “security threat” to the US.
“What is Donald Trump’s ‘casus belli’ against Venezuela? The ‘casus belli’ is the oil of Venezuela, the riches of Venezuela, its gold, gas, iron, diamonds, other material riches,” he said.
Maduro was sworn in for a second term on January 10, after an election win — gained last May — that faced an opposition boycott and allegations of vote-rigging, which the government has denied. The US, Canada, most Latin American, and many European countries have labeled Maduro’s May win as fraudulent.
Guaido calls Maduro’s government as “illegitimate” over his disputed re-election victory, which purportedly left the presidency technically empty. The 35-year-old opposition figure then concludes that the constitution allows the head of National Assembly to be sworn in as the interim president.
But the point is that Venezuela’s National Assembly is no longer recognized by the Venezuelan state, which has given legislative powers to another body, the Constituent Assembly, accused of being stacked with Maduro’s allies. Furthermore, the United Nations has recognized Maduro as the Venezuela’s legitimate leader in his second term in office.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the body only cooperates with Venezuela’s recognized government, not the self-proclaimed “president” Juan Guaido.
The White House, however, has called on other countries to follow suit in recognizing Guaido. It has further placed tough sanctions against Venezuela’s state-owned oil firm PDVSA and certified the authority of Guaido to control certain Venezuelan assets held by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or any other US-insured banks.
EU members Britain, Germany, France, and Spain had given an eight-day ultimatum to Caracas on January 26 to hold a new election or see Europe recognize Guaido. Caracas rejected the ultimatum, describing it as “childlike.”
In a coordinated move on Monday, 17 countries of the 28-member European Union (EU), including France, Spain and Britain, officially announced their support for Guido. Italy, however, blocked an EU statement to recognize the self-declared president.
The Venezuelan president has rejected an ultimatum by Europeans to hold early presidential elections after his rival declared himself interim leader.
The decision came after Maduro rejected an EU ultimatum to hold an early presidential election, saying his country had done all its elections.
“The only elections that are we are waiting for in Venezuela are parliamentary ones, which will happen in 2020, according to the Constitution,” further said Maduro during his RT interview.
He also ruled out the possibility of “war” and direct “military intervention” in Venezuela from outside, but stressed this “does not mean that we do not prepare to defend our land” from any US military invasion.
Trump’s “military aggression” must be rejected so that “peace prevails,” Maduro added.
Canada and a number of right-leaning Latin American countries have also offered official recognition to Guaido.
However, other countries, including Russia, China, and Iran, have expressed support for the elected government in Venezuela and condemned outside interference in the country.