Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro accused President Donald Trump of being personally responsible for state-driven violence in the country in a Monday night rant against newly imposed sanctions on his regime.
“I hold Donald Trump responsible for any violence and blood spilled in Venezuela, you are responsible even if you do not show your face and send Pompeo, Pence, your hands will be full of blood if you take Venezuela to violence,” Maduro said in a speech broadcast on state television.
“Do not mess with us,” he later declared. “Hands off Venezuela!”
— Ruptly (@Ruptly) January 29, 2019
Juan Guaidó, a 35-year-old progressive and opposition lawmaker, took an oath of office to become the country’s interim president last week after Maduro illegally seized power for a further six years after managing to rig last year’s fraudulent presidential election in his favor.
Since Guaidó’s inauguration – which was attended, supported, and watched by millions of people across Venezuela – the United States has led international efforts to oust Maduro from power and replace him with Guaidó until free and fair elections are held. Dozens of countries around the world have backed these efforts, many of whom have officially recognized Guaidó as the country’s legitimate president and demanding the removal of the Maduro regime.
The Trump administration continues to step up its efforts to weaken Maduro’s grip on power. On Monday, the Treasury Department placed further sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil company Petroleum of Venezuela (PDSVA), blocking purchases of Venezuelan oil by United States companies and freezing the assets of all the state-owned company in the United States.
Donald Trump has long maintained that “all options” are on the table, including that of military force. On Monday, an image of National Security Advisor John Bolton’s notepad captured a hand-written note which allegedly read: “Afghanistan –> welcome the talks. 5,000 troops to Colombia.”
The ratcheting up of pressure has also sparked concern for Guaidó’s safety. Maduro still retains the backing of the higher echelons of the Venezuelan military. Senior regime official Diosdado Cabello said at a rally on Monday that Guaidó’s safety was not under threat by the regime’s security forces, but instead by the United States.
“The only ones responsible for the security of the deputy of the National Assembly in contempt, Juan Guaidó, is the U.S. Embassy itself,” he said. “If there is someone responsible for what happens to that gentleman or other leaders, it is imperialism itself that has its plans. It is the false narrative they want to create.”