Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro pushed back on Thursday against growing speculation that incoming Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro may attempt to topple his regime, declaring that his country has built a “popular force” that would secure it from any military invasion.
“There will be no Bolsonaro here, because we have built the popular force,” said Maduro at a speech in front of his United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).
He also used the opportunity to attack incoming Vice President General Hamilton Mourão, who he accused of planning to kill him and overthrow his regime with the help of the U.S. and Colombia.
“Here I am waiting for you, with the millions of men and women from the Armed Forces of Venezuela,” Maduro declared. “Come in person, Mourão.”
Maduro’s comments come as the Bolsonaro administration prepares to take power in Brazil, as he plans to join international efforts to oust the socialist regime in Venezuela through economic isolation.
This week, Bolsonaro rescinded invitations to both Maduro and Cuban officials to his presidential inauguration, a marked change in attitude compared with the country’s previous administrations, which developed close ties with the Castro and Chávez regimes.
“Obviously, regimes that violate the freedoms of their peoples and act openly against the future government of Brazil because of ideological affiliation with the group defeated in the elections will not be in the presidential inauguration in 2019,” Bolsonaro wrote about the decision on Twitter. “We defend and truly respect democracy.”
Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza responded angrily to the slight, claiming his government would never attend an inauguration for a president who is the “epitome of intolerance, fascism, and submission to interests contrary to those of Latin American and Caribbean integration.”
Bolsonaro has repeatedly promised to lead a staunchly anti-communist administration, declaring that Brazil has an “obligation” to help the U.S. fight communism around the world. He has also pledged to purge of left-wing “outlaws” involved in the country’s corruption scandals.
“Either they go overseas, or they go to jail,” he said in October. “These red outlaws will be banished from our homeland. It will be a clean up the likes of which has never been seen in Brazilian history.”
There has been speculation that Bolsonaro may plan to topple Maduro with the help of Colombia. However, the 63-year-old former army captain has previously played down such speculation, arguing that his country will “seek a peaceful way” to oust Maduro from power.
“I have had conversations with other authorities from other countries, they have brought up the subject of Venezuela, and they ask that Brazil participate in one way or another to solve the problem. After all, it is our brothers who are suffering from the dictatorship of Maduro,” Bolsonaro said in an interview last month. “On our side, there is no such intention. Brazil is always going to seek a peaceful way to solve problems.”