More than a week into a standoff with the opposition, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accused President Trump Wednesday of ordering a hit on him from neighboring Colombia. He said he was aware of Mr. Trump’s “orders” for the Columbian government and the local mafia to kill him.
Maduro made the claim in n interview with the Russian state-owned RIA Novosti news agency.
Moscow has been one of Maduro’s staunchest supporters, providing Venezuela with loans and weapons.
Some two dozen nations, including the United States and several big Latin American countries, have backed opposition leader Juan Guaido.
Maduro also did an about face, saying he’s willing to negotiate with his adversaries. He’d been rejecting calls for talks.
“I’m willing to sit down for talks with the opposition so that we could talk for the sake of Venezuela’s peace and its future,” Maduro said.
He added that he was open to mediation by other countries and mentioned Russia, Mexico, Uruguay, Bolivia and the Vatican. Moscow has offered to mediate.
Violent street demonstrations erupted last week after Guaido declared during a major rally in the capital of Caracas that he had assumed presidential powers under the constitution and planned to hold fresh elections to end Maduro’s “dictatorship.”
On Tuesday, Guaido urged Venezuelans to step outside their homes and workplaces for two hours mid-day Wednesday for what would be the first mass mobilization since last week’s big protests.
The call came just a day after Maduro’s embattled socialist administration barred Guaido from leaving the country while he is being investigated for alleged anti-government activities.
The prohibition came after U.S. national security adviserif Guaido is harmed.
Maduro meanwhile is holding firm in refusing to step down. He oversaw military exercises in recent days while seeking to consolidate support from the armed forces and is accusing Washington of trying to stage a coup.
The U.S. announced Tuesday it was giving Guaido control of Venezuela’s U.S. bank accounts.
On Monday,, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, a move that could deprive the Maduro government of $11 billion in export revenues over the next year.
Venezuela’s economy is already ravaged by hyperinflation and widespread food and medical shortages that have driven millions of people to leave the country.
Maduro called the sanctions “criminal” and vowed to challenge the U.S. in court. “With these measures, they intend to rob us,” he said.
Under Venezuela’s constitution, the head of the National Assembly is empowered to take on the duties of the chief executive under a range of circumstances in which the presidency is vacated. The opposition argues Maduro’s re-election last May was a sham.
The previously little-known Guaido has re-invigorated the opposition movement by pushing for three immediate goals: to end Maduro’s “usurpation” of power, establish a transitional government and hold a new presidential election.
The U.S. State Department is, warning of the threat of being arbitrarily arrested or caught in a protest. Venezuela was put on the highest U.S. level advisory, a list that also includes Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Thesecurity forces in Venezuela detained nearly 700 people in just one day of anti-government protests last week – the highest such tally in a single day in the country in at least 20 years. It says more than 40 people are believed to have been killed.
Maduro’s allies blame the opposition for the violence and deny the high death toll as well as reports that minors were among those arrested.
Socialist party leaders have been organizing counter-protests by thousands of Maduro supporters in different parts of the country.
On Tuesday, Maduro announced he is expanding Venezuela’s civilian armed militia to 2 million members. The reserve force was created by the late Hugo Chavez to train civilians to assist the armed forces and defend the socialist revolution from attacks.
Maduro vowed never to let the U.S. intervene in Venezuela’s affairs.
“These are moment of history – and battle,” he said.