Washington: US President Donald Trump has renewed his call on the Venezuelan military forces to end their support for the country’s President Nicolas Maduro and his government.
Trump made the call for a coup in a joint news conference at the White House with Brazil’s new right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday.
The US president also praised the so-called humanitarian aid that Washington had sent to the Latin American country, whose people he described as “starving.”
Trump said the US has been “really very happy to feed thousands and thousands of starving Venezuelans,” adding that, “They have appreciated it and if the Maduro forces would step aside, it could be a truly great and successful humanitarian project.”
Maduro has repeatedly denounced the so-called humanitarian assistance as a US plot to disguise a military intervention in his country and promised that the opposition will eventually “face justice” for supporting a US-backed coup.
Maduro’s government has closed borders with Brazil and Colombia in order to block what he says is an attempt by the US to proceed with its regime change plans.
The Venezuelan military has reaffirmed its support for Maduro despite the US threats.
Trump’s remarks came after the US announced new sanctions on Venezuela on Tuesday, targeting the country’s state-owned mining company.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin claimed that the Minerven firm’s illicit gold operations were being used to prop up the Venezuelan president and his inner circle.
The sanctions are the latest in a series of US actions against Caracas as Washington tries to choke off funding to the Venezuelan government. Caracas has slammed the sanctions as “illegal,” and an attempt to interfere in country’s internal affairs.
Moscow cautions against US military intervention
In a separate development on Tuesday, Russia warned the United States not to intervene militarily in Venezuela as Washington was considering “all options” against Caracas and said it was increasingly concerned by US sanctions on the Latin American country.
Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Moscow was opposed to any US attempt to use humanitarian aid as a pretext for interfering in Venezuela’s domestic affairs.
Ryabkov’s comments came after the US and Russia had earlier in the day held talks over the Venezuelan crisis in the Italian capital of Rome.
The Russian official described the discussions as difficult but frank, according to Russia’s RIA news agency. Ryabkov, however, said the two countries did not manage to narrow their positions.
Washington described the talks as “positive,” and “substantive,” but said the two sides were still divided over the issue.
“We did not come to a meeting
of minds, but I think the talks were positive in the sense that both sides
emerged with a better understanding of the other’s views,” US special
representative Elliott Abrams told reporters on Tuesday. “They were useful,
they were substantive, they were serious.
We agreed very much on the depth of the crisis in Venezuela.”
The Latin American country is in the midst of a political crisis, which broke out in late January after opposition politician and president of the defunct National Assembly Juan Guaido abruptly declared himself “interim president” of Venezuela, challenging the outcome of last year’s presidential election in which Maduro emerged victorious.
Guaido’s bid was quickly recognized by the US followed by dozens of its regional and European allies. Washington slapped sanctions on the Venezuelan oil sector in support of the opposition figure and went as far as threatening a military option to topple the Caracas government.
On the other camp, Iran, Russia, Turkey and China, among other states, have voiced support for the elected Venezuelan government. The UN has also said it would only work with the Maduro-led administration.
Maduro announced on Sunday plans for a “deep restructuring” of his government to protect the state against the political crisis.
The 56-year-old leader has repeatedly accused Washington of masterminding a “coup” against his government, blaming the US for the economic crisis in Venezuela.