Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says the United States has been “stealing” billions of dollars from the Latin American country through sanctions and offering “crumbs” in return as humanitarian aid.
Maduro made the remarks on Friday as Caracas continued to block the entry of a US package of “humanitarian aid” at the border with Colombia following the US administration’s move to freeze billions of dollars in the nation’s oil revenue and overseas assets.
“It’s a booby trap, they’re putting on a show with rotten and contaminated food,” said Maduro, speaking at an event in the southeastern city of Ciudad Bolivar.
“They’ve stolen $30 billion and are offering four crumbs of rotten food,” the president added, referring to the United States.
The US administration’s sanctions has so far targeted individuals and state oil company PDVSA, the Venezuelan government’s main source of income, but the US Treasury announced Friday that it was imposing sanctions on five intelligence and security officials close to Maduro.
Maduro also accused Colombia and the US of hatching “war plans” against his country and called on the military to prepare a “special plan” for countering such threats by reinforcing Venezuela’s borders.
Venezuela has been in political turmoil over the past weeks, with the opposition blaming Maduro for an ailing economy, hyperinflation, power cuts, and shortages of basic items, and urging him to resign.
The 56-year-old president has previously accused the US administration of using the Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis as a cover-up for his military plans in the country.
The political crisis deepened in the country on January 23, when opposition figure Juan Guaido, a lawmaker who leads the defunct National Assembly, proclaimed himself the “interim president” of Venezuela.
US President Donald Trump was quick to officially recognize him as such, announcing sanctions on Venezuela’s oil exports, the government’s main source of revenue.
Some major Western powers such as the UK, France, Spain, and Germany have also recognized Guaido as interim president, a move seen by Caracas and others as interference in its domestic affairs.
Russia, China, Turkey, and Iran, among other countries, have however supported the elected government of Maduro, warning against foreign meddling in Venezuela’s domestic affairs.
Guaido issues deadline to military
Meanwhile, the Venezuelan opposition leader gave pro-Maduro armed forces a two-week deadline to back his effort to become the interim president.
“February 23 is coming, gentlemen from the Armed Forces. It is a very important date for the Venezuelan society not only because we have an opportunity to stop this emergency, which is directly and indirectly killing people, but also to literally open the doors of change for Venezuela,” Guaido said.
He has set the date for the entry of the US-supplied package to the South American country while Maduro has already ordered the military to block it at the Colombian border.
Earlier this month, the 35-year-old opposition leader warned the Venezuelan military that blocking the shipment would be a “crime against humanity.”
Maduro, who enjoys the critical support of the military, has accused Guaido of staging a US-engineered coup against him, and has severed diplomatic relations with Washington.