Venezuela: US warns of ‘significant response’ if there’s violence against country’s diplomats
Xeber24.net – The Guardian
Crisis-hit country’s president under pressure as US urges the world to ‘pick a side’
The White House national security adviser John Bolton has warned against violence or intimidation of American diplomats in Venezuela or opposition leader Juan Guiadó, saying such action would trigger a response from the United States.
“Any violence and intimidation against US diplomatic personnel, Venezuela’s democratic leader, Juan Guiado (sic), or the National Assembly itself would represent a grave assault on the rule of law and will be met with a significant response,” Bolton said in a Twitter post on Sunday, also blaming Cuba for supporting Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro’s paramilitary forces.
His comments came as Israel and Australia joined the chorus of countries recognising Guaidó as interim president. “We now urge all parties to work constructively towards a peaceful resolution of the situation, including a return to democracy, respect for the rule of law and upholding of human rights of the Venezuelan people,” Australia’s foreign affairs minister Marise Payne said on Monday morning.
Maduro, has rebuffed calls from the international community to hold elections within eight days, protracting a diplomatic crisis that shows little respite.
In a wide-ranging interview with CNN Türk that aired on Monday, Maduro accused the opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, of violating “the constitution and every law”. Guaidó, the leader of the opposition-held national assembly, declared himself interim president on Wednesday as hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets to protest against Maduro’s rule.
The United States, Canada and a dozen Latin American countries swiftly recognised Guaidó, the fresh-faced leader of the once-fractured opposition, and labelled Maduro a dictator, responsible for the economic and political crisis that engulfed his South American nation.
Britain, Germany, France and Spain all said they would recognise Guaidó unless Maduro called elections within eight days, an ultimatum that Jorge Arreaza, Venezuela’s bullish foreign minister, dismissed as “childlike”. Russia, one of Maduro’s staunchest allies, described the threat as “absurd”.
However, Maduro retains the support of China, Cuba, Bolivia and Turkey and, most importantly perhaps, he still has the backing of the military – long the arbiter of political disputes – though his defence attache to the Venezuelan embassy in Washington defected to Guaidó on Saturday. In an attempt to trigger more defections, Guaidó is canvassing military bases, offering amnesty to troops who switch sides.
Oil-rich Venezuela is wracked with hyperinflation, rendering the bolivar currency practically worthless. Shortages in food staples and basic medicines are rampant and crime is widespread. More than 3 million Venezuelans have fled, causing consternation across the continent.
Maduro, who has frequently blamed the crisis on an “economic war” waged by the US, won re-election last May in a vote widely regarded as a sham. Shortly before his second two-year term began in early January, Guaidó – a relative unknown inside and outside Venezuela – indicated he would be ready to assume the presidency on an interim basis. He made good on that promise last Wednesday.
In Sunday’s interview with CNN Türk, Maduro took aim once more at the US, calling the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, “desperate and full of hate”, after the diplomat had told the UN security council on Saturday morning it was “time [for other countries] to pick a side”.
When Trump formally recognised Guaidó as interim president last Wednesday, Maduro swiftly broke off diplomatic ties and demanded that all staff be pulled out of the embassy by Sunday, an order that the state department dismissed as illegitimate.
On Saturday, Maduro extended the deadline by a month and told CNN that he had reached out to Trump but had not received a response. “He despises us,” Maduro said, adding that he was “overwhelmed with his internal problems”.