China slams US for 'bullying' Venezuela

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro (L) and China's ambassador to Venezuela Li Baorong (C) watch a performance of a Chinese lion during a celebration marking 45 years of ties between the two countries, in June 2019 (AFP Photo/Marcelo Garcia) (Venezuelan Presidency/AFP/File)

Beijing (AFP) - China on Wednesday hit back at remarks from a top US official who warned Beijing and Moscow against supporting the Venezuelan regime of Nicolas Maduro, and called on Washington to stop "bullying" other countries.

The United States is one of more than 50 countries backing opposition leader Juan Guaido in Venezuela, whereas China and several other countries, including Russia, support Maduro.

On Tuesday, US National Security Advisor John Bolton urged China and Russia to avoid doing business with the Maduro government, after President Donald Trump ordered a freeze on all Venezuelan government assets in the US and barred transactions with its authorities.

Bolton's comments are "a wanton interference in Venezuela's internal affairs," said Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying in an online statement.

"China urges the US to... let the Venezuelan people decide their own future and immediately stop the bullying actions of suppressing other countries at every turn," she said.

Crisis-wracked Venezuela has been mired in a political impasse since January when Guaido, speaker of the National Assembly, proclaimed himself acting president, quickly receiving the support of more than 50 countries.

Beijing, which has had close relations with Maduro over the years and is one of Caracas's main creditors, has repeatedly warned against foreign interference in the South American country, whose economy is wracked by hyperinflation and shortages of basic necessities.

On Tuesday, delegates from about 60 countries discussed ways of ending the crisis in Venezuela in a meeting called by the Lima Group, which includes a dozen Latin American countries and Canada, most of which support Guaido.

During the meeting, Bolton singled out Maduro allies China and Russia, telling them their "support to the Maduro regime is intolerable".

He also urged Russia not to "double down on a bad bet," and told China that "the quickest route to getting repaid" for its loans to Venezuela was by supporting "a new legitimate government."