Deposed Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro published a video message to the American people late Tuesday, urging them to reject President Donald Trump and his “extremist” administration and not “allow a new Vietnam” in Venezuela.
In the video, apparently shot within the lavish confines of Caracas’s Miraflores palace and featuring a European-style fountain in the background, Maduro claims that the socialist Venezuelan regime is “democratic” and that images of Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) troops loyal to him beating, torturing, and killing unarmed dissidents were “doctored.”
“Don’t believe everything the American media tells you,” Maduro warns:
The video, titled Let us not allow a new Vietnam,” suggests that the Trump administration is seeking to take over Venezuela’s oil and gold industries.
“The United States wants to put its eye on our oil like they did in Iraq, like they did in Libya,” Maduro argues. “Our oil is ours.”
Maduro does not provide any evidence that the U.S. government has control of the oil industries in either of those countries. The Department of the Treasury imposed sanctions this week on Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), the state-run oil company, which actually bans Americans from buying Venezuelan oil.
“I want to send a message to the people of the United States to alert them of the campaign, the media, communications, and psychological war developing in international media and particularly the communications platforms in the United States against Venezuela,” Maduro said. “They have prepared a campaign to justify a coup d’etat in Venezuela that has been prepared, financed, and actively supported by Donald Trump’s administration, as the public knows. A campaign of false images, of distorted images, of doctored images, has been expedited.”
The “coup d’etat” Maduro referred to is last week’s constitutional appointment of former National Assembly leader, Juan Guaidó, president of Venezuela. The Venezuelan Constitution requires the people to reject a government that violates human rights or disturbs the democratic order. Because Maduro has used the military to torture, beat, and kill peaceful dissidents – and was “re-elected” in a vote international observers consider fraudulent – Guaidó invoked constitutional Articles 333 and 350 to take over, with a mandate to hold free and fair elections as soon as possible.
Maduro claimed that the United States fabricated all violence documented on the part of his troops towards peaceful pro-democracy dissidents and said this week that Trump is “personally” responsible for all violence in the nation.
“I tell you from the heart: since they cannot fabricate the claim that Maduro and Venezuela have weapons of mass destruction to intervene, now they invent a new image, news every day … to justify an intervention in our country,” he continued.
Maduro calls his regime a “solid democracy,” despite overwhelming evidence that he has orchestrated fraudulent elections for most of his tenure, most prominently in May 2018, when he was “elected” president in an election barring opposition candidates from running. Regarding the widespread food shortages and near-total lack of medicine in the country, Maduro told Americans that “problems arise [in Venezuela] every day like they do anywhere else.”
“Do not allow Donald Trump and the extremists surrounding him – John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, the CIA, Mike Pence – don’t let these extremists impose their lies on Venezuela,” he concluded.
To fight off the “coup,” Maduro posted more video and photos on Twitter late Tuesday of himself jogging with Venezuelan military troops, apparently in preparation for a U.S. invasion.
“The mystique of the patriot soldiers is manifest in every military team. I consider myself yet another soldier at the service of the people and the Revolution,” Maduro wrote on Twitter. “Always loyal, never traitors!”
La mística de los soldados y soldadas patriotas se pone de manifiesto en cada ejercicio militar. Me considero un soldado más al servicio del pueblo y la Revolución. ¡Leales siempre, traidores nunca! pic.twitter.com/cWaUhq0WtJ
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) January 30, 2019
Dozens of nations, including most countries in the Western Hemisphere, have recognized Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela and no longer conduct relations with the country through Maduro. Guaidó does not yet, however, have control of the military, whose leaders have benefitted greatly from ties with Maduro. The military controls the nation’s food supply and reported helps lead the Cartel de los Soles, a lucrative cocaine trafficking outlet. The “soles” in the cartel’s title refer to the badges on Venezuelan soldiers’ uniforms.
Maduro moved to prevent Guaidó from taking further action as president on Tuesday, assigning his prosecutor general to freeze all of his bank accounts and ban him from leaving Venezuela. As Maduro is no longer president, however, it is not legal for those he appointed to make such moves. Guaidó has dismissed the action but does not appear to have plans to leave the country at this time.