Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro accused Vice President Mike Pence of being a member of the Ku Klux Klan in a rambling monologue on state television Wednesday, claiming he supports a “dialogue” with the opposition and that Pence and the Trump administration are seeking to spark a “civil war” so that “chaos reigns” in the country.
Maduro spoke for hours to an audience of members of the Venezuelan Armed Forces, whom President Juan Guaidó claimed in an announcement from an airbase on April 30 had chosen to finally abandon Maduro and take orders from their legitimate commander in chief. Guaidó became president in January after Maduro’s term expired, but Maduro has refused to give up the armed forces or vacate the presidential palace.
Pence had announced on Tuesday that the Treasury Department would lift sanctions on Gen. Manuel Cristopher Figuera, the former head of Maduro’s secret police (SEBIN), the intelligence forces used to imprison, torture, and kill dissidents. Cristopher was the only high-ranking official who defected following Guaidó’s announcement of a military uprising last month, publishing a letter explaining that he could no longer tolerate Maduro blaming his incompetence on the United States.
Maduro accused Pence on Wednesday of expecting Venezuela to “submit to his whims and mandates,” proclaiming, “No, Mr. Mike Pence. Know that here in Venezuela occurred the biggest revolution ever known, the revolution of our liberator Simón Bolívar.” Maduro added, “Here are the rebel forces of our supreme commander Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías.”
“Ridiculous is what you call a racist, a supremacist from the Ku Klux Klan. All Mike Pence needs is to put on that KKK hat,” Maduro railed:
— teleSUR TV (@teleSURtv) May 8, 2019
Russian propaganda outlet Sputnik caught Maduro’s explanation for his rant in the extensive broadcast, the dictator objecting to Pence’s inducement of betrayal of Maduro himself.
“Yesterday, Mike Pence declared that the soldier who betrays the homeland and switches to the side of the gringos –that they will reward him,” Maduro allegedly said. “[This is] a lack of respect for honour, morals, and the dignity of the Bolivarian Armed Forces.”
Elsewhere in the tirade, Maduro claimed that he was seeking to maintain the peace in Venezuela. He did not mention the five civilians his soldiers and gang members loyal to the regime killed following the April 30 uprising or his forces using armored vehicles to run over unarmed civilians.
“I believe in … dialogue, democracy,” he claimed. “They want a war between brothers, a civil war, so that they can later invoke a military intervention and then chaos reigns. And where chaos reigns, they can dominate the national riches.”
Maduro appeared with one of his top officials, drug trafficker and Hezbollah operative Tareck El Aissami, by his side. El Aissami has held many high positions in Maduro’s government but is currently in charge of the nation’s oil industry.
#VIDEO 📹 | Presidente @NicolasMaduro a la FANB: El poder militar del país debe garantizar que el camino de Venezuela sea el camino de la paz, la estabilidad, la armonía, el voto, la legitimidad constitucional #VenezuelaCultivaSoberanía pic.twitter.com/fBFb38QKCv
— VTV CANAL 8 (@VTVcanal8) May 9, 2019
“While the United States has sanctioned more than 150 government officials and state-owned businesses loyal to the dictator, America has also made it clear that these sanctions need not be permanent,” Pence said. “Just as the National Assembly [of Veneuzela] has promised to provide amnesty to anyone who has not committed a war crime, so too the United States of America will consider sanctions relief for all those who step forward, stand up for the constitution, and support the rule of law.”
Pence named Cristopher personally and announced that in “recognition of his recent actions in support of democracy and the rule of law … the United States of America is removing all sanctions on General Manuel Cristopher Figuera effective immediately.”
As President Guaidó builds a brighter future for Venezuela, we hope the action that our nation is taking today will encourage others to follow the example of General Cristopher Figuera and members of the military who’ve also stepped forward and taken a stand for the Bolivarian constitution and libertad.
He also urged the Venezuelan Supreme Court, currently in the hands of Maduro loyalists, to refuse to persecute opposition members because of their political beliefs.
“The Supreme Court was established to protect individual rights and the rule of law and, sadly, of late, it has become a political tool for a regime that usurps democracy, indicts political prisoners, and promotes authoritarianism,” Pence said. “It is time for the Supreme Court in Venezuela to return to its founding purpose. If the Supreme Court of Venezuela does not return to its constitutional mandate to uphold the rule of law, the United States of America will hold all 25 of its magistrates accountable for their actions.”
Maikel Moreno, Maduro’s chief justice, responded by issuing a statement “categorically and decisively rejecting the threats made by Mike Pence.”
“In a disrespectful and interfering way, [Pence] seeks to subject the high judicial authorities of Venezuela to threats that violate the principles of independence, self-determination, and sovereignty,” Moreno claimed.