Venezuela crisis: Maduro accuses Trump of hiring Colombian mafia to assassinate him

Sarah Harvard

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accused President Donald Trump of hiring the local mafia to assassinate him in an interview with a Russia state-run news agency.

“Donald Trump has without doubt given an order to kill me and has told the government of Colombia and the Colombian mafia to kill me,” Mr Maduro told RIA news agency on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

Critics argue that the 56-year-old’s claim is a red-herring tactic to rally up support in Venezuela amid mass protests against his socialist government, and the debilitating inflation and food and medicine shortages in the Latin American country.

Mr Maduro’s comments in the interview were reportedly said on the same day a mysterious Russian jet plane was discovered on the tarmac of an airport in Caracas.

The aircraft, belonging to Nordwind Airlines, arrived at Maiquetia Airport in Caracas after direct flight from Moscow. Normally, the plane flies between Russia and Southeast Asia, a long way away from the South American country. Furthermore, there are no commercial airlines offering direct flights from Moscow to Caracas.

The unusual arrival of the passenger-free Russian aircraft prompted an onslaught of conspiracy theories about Mr Maduro and the plane’s alleged purpose.

One unproven theory claims that Mr Maduro is using the aircraft–reportedly flying with two crew members and passengers—to carry 20 tons of gold worth approximately $860m from the Central Bank of Venezuela out of the country. Others include the jet brought mercenaries into the country, or arrived to escort Mr Maduro into exile. Although theories were not based on solid evidence, the frenzied rumour mill it caused is reflective of the rising tensions in the Venezuela as Mr Maduro comes under unparalleled international pressure to resign.

The White House recognised Juan Guaidó, the president of the country’s National Assembly, as the interim president after he declared he assumed presidential powers under the constitution last week during an opposition rally in the nation’s capital. Mr Guaidó also promised to hold fresh elections to end Mr Maduro’s dictatorships.

In addition to the United States, Canada, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Brazil and the Organisation of American states recognise and support Mr Guaidó as the interim president.

The opposition leader’s announced prompted erupted violent demonstrations in the streets of Caracas.

Mr Maduro has also placed increase pressure against Mr Guaidó. The Venezuelan attorney general launched an investigation into the 35-year-old’s “anti-government activities.” Mr Maduro also asked the country’s Supreme Court, where his loyalists are the majority, to freeze Mr Guaidó’s bank accounts and prevent him from leaving the country.

Mr Maduro still controls the military, a key component that allows him to keep his grip on his remaining presidential powers.

However, on Tuesday, Mr Maduro—who vowed to maintain his powers and repeatedly refused negotiating—said he is now open to talk with the opposition.

“I’m willing to sit down for talks with the opposition so that we could talk for the sake of Venezuela’s peace and its future,” Mr Maduro told RIA.

The talks, Mr Maduro suggested, could be held with mediation from other countries, mentioning Uruguay, Bolivia, Russia, Mexico and the Vatican.

Russia continues to back Mr Maduro, calling on Mr Guaidó to take back his calls for a snap election and urging him to consider mediation with the socialist Venezuelan leader, Reuters reported.

The White House, on the other hand, are heightening the pressure on Mr Maduro to step down when it announced on Monday that the US will be implementing new sanctions against Venezuela’s state-owned oil company.

National security adviser John Bolton, a noted war hawk, was also photographed holding a legal pad containing the words “5,000 troops to Colombia,” prompting concerns that the US will engage in military intervention in Venezuela by way of its neighbouring country. Mr Bolton is notorious for his radical advocate of war against Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea.

It should be noted that the US has a long history of in regime change in Latin America dating back to the 20th century, with its height being at the Cold War, often using its political, economic and military influence in the world.

Among the list of countries that experienced US-backed regime change, often resulting in dictatorships and mass casualties, include Argentina, Chile, Cuba, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama, Uruguay and Brazil.