WASHINGTON – Venezuela's embattled president Nicolas Maduro accused the Trump administration of being filled with a "gang of extremists" who want to take over Venezuela.
In a provocative interview with the BBC, Maduro vowed to block American humanitarian aid to desperate Venezuelans, arguing it was a ruse to justify U.S. military intervention and a coup d'etat.
"They are warmongering in order to take over Venezuela," he told the British news outlet.
Maduro's security forces have blocked food, medical supplies and hygiene kits sitting at Venezuela's border – despite a starving population and massive shortages of basic goods in the country. Maduro claimed in the BBC interview that Venezuela did not need to "beg from anyone" and had enough resources to "satisfy all the needs of its people."
American officials have blasted Maduro's decision.
"Through authoritarianism, corruption, and incompetence, Nicolás Maduro and his kleptocratic regime have created a massive humanitarian crisis both inside Venezuela and throughout the Americas," Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement Tuesday. "Now, Mr. Maduro has chosen to further starve his own people."
Maduro faces mounting international pressure to relinquish the presidency. The U.S. and a raft of other countries have called Maduro's rule illegitimate and recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido, head of the National Assembly, as Venezuela's interim president.
The Trump administration has also slapped tough economic sanctions on Venezuela's oil industry in an effort to cut off revenue to Maduro's brutal regime.
President Donald Trump has said that "all options" are on the table to push Maduro from power. But the White House has emphasized sanctions and diplomatic pressure over military intervention for the most part.
Maduro said he was rooting for Trump's ouster, telling the BBC he hoped "this extremist group in the White House is defeated by powerful world-wide public opinion."
He called the U.S. an "empire" and said Trump represented the "the interests of the extreme right." He even seemed to accuse Trump of being motivated by racism in his approach to Venezuela.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro: 'Gang of extremists' in Trump White House are 'warmongering'