Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro has said he ‘will not go down in history as a traitor’ as he vowed to resist Washington’s demands to step down.
Donald Trump has warned he could use military force in Venezuela if Maduro does not hand over power, after the U.S. recognised opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s interim President.
European powers joined Trump in turning their back on Maduro yesterday but the military has so far remained loyal to the current regime.
Speaking to RT – the state-owned broadcaster of Maduro’s ally, Russia – Venezuela’s President warned the country would defend its ‘sacred land’ against any invasion.
Nicolas Maduro, pictured at a military exercise in Venezuela on Sunday, has vowed not to quit and said he will ‘not go down in history as a traitor’
He said: ‘I’m not going to be a traitor, a weak man who turned his back on his historic commitments to his people.
‘What is the casus belli [cause of war] of Donald Trump against Venezuela? It is Venezuela’s oil, riches, gold, gas, iron, diamonds and material riches.’
Rejecting European calls for new elections he said the country had gone to the polls 25 times in 20 years, saying the ‘problem is in the opposition’.
Russia, China, Bolivia, Cuba, Iran, Mexico, North Korea, Turkey and Uruguay continue to back Maduro as leader.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan today accused the EU of hypocrisy by trying to force Maduro out.
‘On one side you will say ‘democracy, democracy, democracy’ and ‘ballot box, ballot box, ballot box’ and later you will dare to topple the government by violence and ruse,’ he said.
Venezuela is in the grip of severe shortages of food and medicine and an inflation rate of more than one million per cent, according to the UN.
Guaido has said that 300,000 people are at risk of death from malnutrition and illness after years of shortages of basic food and medicines.
The U.S. has pledged humanitarian aid for Venezuela but Maduro has turned it down, believing it is the first step to overthrowing him.
Guaido accused the military of planning to divert aid in order to distribute it through the socialist government’s subsidised food program for supporters.
The aid supplies are being stockpiled in Colombia and Brazil and will test the military’s loyalty as Maduro orders the packages to be turned back.
Members of the Venezuelan armed forces demonstrate in support of Maduro in Caracas yesterday. The military has so far remained loyal, thwarting Guaido’s efforts to take power
President Donald Trump, pictured on board Air Force One on Sunday, warned that military intervention remains ‘an option’ for dealing with the crisis in Venezuela
Juan Guaido, who declared himself Venezuela’s interim President last month, speaks at an opposition rally in Caracas on Saturday
Guaido appealed to the military’s ‘conscience’ to let the aid reach those most in need.
US President Donald Trump warned on Sunday that military intervention remains ‘an option’ for dealing with the crisis in Venezuela.
On Sunday, Maduro addressed troops on military exercises, calling on them for ‘maximum cohesion’.
Saturday saw rival protests as tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Caracas, some demanding Maduro’s resignation and others celebrating 20 years since Maduro’s mentor, Hugo Chavez, came to power.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also pledged $40million in humanitarian aid as he hosted a meeting of the Lima Group of Latin American countries and Canada.
Eleven of the group’s 14 members issued a joint statement calling for a peaceful change of government in Venezuela, without military intervention.
Maduro speaks to members of the Venezuelan armed forces – who have so far remained loyal to his regime – at an event in Turiamo on Sunday
A pro-government activist holds up a Venezuelan flag in Caracas yesterday, amid a spiralling crisis and threats of U.S. military intervention
Peru’s foreign minister Nestor Popolizio, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and Canada’s foreign minister Chrystia Freeland at a meeting of the Lima Group in Ottawa yesterday
But Maduro dismissed the group’s calls for change, saying they made him feel ‘like vomiting and laughing at the same time.’
Meanwhile Britain, France and Spain were among 16 EU nations to side with Guaido yesterday after Maduro their demands to call new elections.
Russia slammed what it called interference in the oil-rich but now poor Latin American country, saying it was an attempt to ‘legitimise usurped power.’
Under Maduro’s stewardship, oil-dependent Venezuela has plunged into an economic crisis, suffering from hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicine.
The current crisis began after Maduro was sworn into a second term last month, following 2018 elections branded illegitimate by the opposition.
On Monday, oil prices rose to their highest level yet this year on European markets on the back of the crisis in Venezuela.