Workers of a Venezuelan oil giant, which was hit by the United States, have taken to the streets to support President Nicolas Maduro, calling on Washington to keep its “hands off” the oil industry.
Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, who delivered a speech to the crowd, said all masks have been removed from the US President Donald Trump.
Rodriguez said that Trump, his Vice-President Mike Pence and his national security adviser John Bolton, “all without exception, have said they are coming for the oil of Venezuela and what is our response? Yankee hands, off our oil industry!”
In an address to the gathering, Oil Minister Manuel Quevedo said that Venezuelans “have to reject, unilaterally, arbitrary measures of theft of Citgo,” a company which operates three refineries in the US.
The Trump administration announced a new round of sanctions against oil firm Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) earlier this week, to funnel income from the country’s main oil exporter into the hands of opposition leader Juan Guaido.
Guaido, who declared himself “interim president” last week, was immediately recognized as Venezuela’s rightful leader by Washington and its allies.
Maduro described the sanctions as “illegal, unilateral, immoral, (and) criminal,” saying Washington intended to steal the company from all Venezuelans.
To support the elected government of Maduro, and denounce what they believe to be a coup d’etat, protesters took to the streets of the capital Caracas on Thursday.
Maduro himself addressed Trump in an English message on Wednesday, urging him not to get involved with Venezuela. “Hands off Venezuela! Donald Trump, hands off Venezuela!” he tweeted.
The Venezuelan president has accused Washington of masterminding a coup against his government.
Catalans support Maduro, Venezuelans
In a show of solidarity with Venezuelans, people in Catalonia gathered outside the European Union’s headquarters in Barcelona on Thursday night.
The rally organizers said it showed support for Maduro and protest “against the coup and internal interference” in the oil-rich country.
Earlier in the day, the European Parliament voted to recognize the self-proclaimed president as Venezuela’s legitimate leader and urged the European Union to follow suit.
The motion urges Brussels to accept Guaido as “legitimate interim president of the country until new free, transparent and credible presidential elections can be called in order to restore democracy.”
Greeks rally in solidarity with Venezuelans
Elsewhere in Europe, Greeks rallied to express their support for the elected government of Maduro and the Venezuelan people.
Demonstrators marched from central Athens to the parliament and the US embassy, holding flags of Venezuela and chanting anti-EU and anti-US slogans.
“What’s going on at Venezuela since these last days is an ongoing coup d’etat which has been after a long plan performed by the USA government as well as the European Union, said former Greek Alternate Minister of Finance Nadia Valavani.
The Trump administration, which has been putting pressure on the government of President Maduro, has put “all options on the table,” including the military option, to remove him from power.
On Monday, Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton was seen at a news briefing in Washington holding a notepad that displayed the words “5,000 troops to Colombia.” The media have speculated that such a deployment could be in preparation for a possible invasion of Venezuela.
Venezuela’s Ambassador to the United Nations Jorge Valero said on Tuesday that the US was preparing for a “military invasion” of his country.
Following the move, the Lima Group — a 14-country bloc that includes Canada — expressed opposition to any military intervention in Venezuela, though it has already recognized the opposition leader as the president of Venezuela.
The bloc had also refused to recognize Maduro as president before he was sworn in for a second six-year term earlier this month.
The army has remained loyal to the president amid the crisis. Last week, the president visited several military bases, where he lambasted the US for openly leading a coup against his administration by recognizing Guaido as “interim president.”
Oil-rich Venezuela is mired in economic turmoil, with people grappling with hyperinflation, power cuts and shortages of basic items.
Caracas accuses the US of being behind the crisis as part of a bid to topple Maduro’s government.