President Nicolas Maduro has ordered the closure of Venezuela’s embassy and consulates in the US after Washington threw its weight behind opposition leader Juan Guaido who declared himself interim president.
The call came only a day after Caracas severed diplomatic ties with Washington and ordered all US diplomats to leave Venezuela within 72 hours.
During a lengthy speech at a special session at the Supreme Court, the Venezuelan president censured US President Donald Trump for seeking to orchestrate a coup against his government and backing the self-declared leader.
“I believe there’s no doubt that Donald Trump wants to impose a de facto government, unconstitutional government, a coup against the people and democracy in Venezuela,” Maduro said.
“There’s no doubt that is Donald Trump with his craziness of believing he’s the world’s police,” he said.
At least 10 countries, including Russia, Turkey and Iran, have expressed their support for Maduro and condemned outside interference in Venezuela.
Iran, Turkey and Russia throw their weight behind the Venezuelan government against a bizarre move by the US-backed opposition leader to proclaim himself “president.”
On Thursday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said the Islamic Republic “backs Venezuela’s nation and legitimate government in the face of any foreign meddling in the country’s domestic affairs or any illegitimate and illegal measure such as attempts for a coup or moves against the people.”
Russia also stressed that it would stand by Venezuela to protect its sovereignty, warning that Washington’s moves could lead to lawlessness and bloodshed in Venezuela. Moscow said foreign powers’ support for the opposition leader is a bid to “usurp power”.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also voiced solidarity with his Venezuelan counterpart and tweeted: “My brother Maduro! Stand tall, we are standing by you.”
China, which has backed Maduro’s sovereignty, said it opposed any outside interference. Bolivia, Mexico and Cuba all expressed support for the Venezuelan president.
Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement has also voiced support for the Venezuelan president in the face of the US-backed coup against Maduro’s “legitimate” government.
Meanwhile, Ilhan Omar, who made headlines last November after becoming the first Somali American ever elected to the US Congress, condemned the US moves in Venezuela, calling on all to support efforts aimed at “facilitating a peaceful dialogue” in the crisis-hit country.
The European Union has not recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s new head of state, but called for new elections in the South American country.
Minutes after Guaido’s highly-provocative declaration, Trump recognized him as the “legitimate” interim president of Venezuela, calling on other governments in the Western Hemisphere to also recognize his so-called presidency.
On Thursday, Venezuela’s Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino also threw his support behind President Maduro, who still enjoys broad support among the armed forces.
Observers say the strong support by the army as well as Russia and other countries have dealt a significant blow to US efforts to oust Maduro, forcing the EU to backpedal on its “Maduro must go!” stance.
The US has a long record for “regime change” campaigns in Venezuela and other countries. In 2002, the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez was ousted for two days in a US-backed coup which was ultimately defeated.
A protester carrying a placard interrupted an Organisation of American States meeting attended by Pompeo in Washington DC.
In 1953, the CIA led a coup against Iran’s first democratically-elected government and toppled Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh.
Maduro was sworn in for a second term earlier in January, after a vote marred by an opposition boycott and claims of vote-rigging.
Oil-rich Venezuela is currently mired in economic turmoil, with people grappling with hyperinflation, power cuts and shortages of basic items.
Maduro and his supporters accuse the US for being behind the country’s economic crisis, saying Washington is plotting to topple the government.
US national security adviser John Bolton, who is known for his hawkish views, said on Thursday that Washington is making every attempt to cut Venezuela’s revenue streams, and make sure that the oil revenue goes to the opposition leader.
“What we’re focusing on today is disconnecting the illegitimate Maduro regime from the sources of his revenues,” Bolton told reporters at the White House.
“We think consistent with our recognition of Juan Guaido as the constitutional interim president of Venezuela that those revenues should go to the legitimate government,” he added.