As opposition leader Juan Guaido – who a month ago declared himself the county’s rightful president – called on supporters to once again take to the streets, Mr Maduro insisted he would not give in to what he said was a foreign attempt to back a coup.
“They are warmongering in order to take over Venezuela,” Mr Maduro told the BBC, saying “this extremist group in the White House is defeated by powerful world-wide public opinion”.
Speaking in the capital, Caracas, he added: “It’s a political war, of the United States empire, of the interests of the extreme right that today is governing, of the Ku Klux Klan, that rules the White House, to take over Venezuela.”
Mr Maduro, 55, is fighting for his political life amid mounting internal discontent about the economy, and shortages of food and medicine, that have helped persuade millions of people – up to ten per cent of the population – to leave the country. His government has also been accused of resorting to increasingly authoritarian tactics, and jailing political opponents.
Last month’s declaration by Mr Guaido, one that had had been months in planning and had international support – appeared to catch him by surprise. Mr Guaido, whose international profile was at that point very modest, suddenly made headlines around the world when he was recognised as the nation’s “legitimate” leader by the US, UK, Canada and a host of nations in Europe and Latin America. Russia, China, Turkey and Mexico continue to recognise Mr Maduro as president, as does, crucially, the Venezuelan military.
Mr Maduro has been criticised for moving to block humanitarian aid from the US that many in his country would welcome. He has hit back, saying he believes the aid is part of a plot to arm opposition supporters and has pointed out that Elliott Abrams, the US official overseeing its policy to Venezuela, once admitted using aid shipments to send arms to anti-anti-government rebels in Nicaragua.
Mr Maduro, who has blamed US sanctions for Venezuela’s economic troubles when in reality the falling price of oil and economic mismanagement have been more probably been more important factors, said the US intended to “create a humanitarian crisis in order to justify a military intervention”.
“This is part of that charade. That’s why, with all dignity, we tell them we don’t want their crumbs, their toxic food, their left-overs,” he said.
On Tuesday, Mr Guaido vowed again to deliver the US aid that has been warehoused on the Colombian border town of Cucuta. His strategy for outmaneuvering Maduro remains unclear, the Associated Press said.
The AP said that on Tuesday, protesters called on Mr Maduro to permit the aid in, citing epidemic hunger.
”Nicolas Maduro should put his hand on his heart and accept that aid,“ said Mayerly Prada, among a small group of protesters on the Colombian side of the Tienditas International Bridge. ”It’s help for many Venezuelans like my son.“