Venezuela hits back at US and Colombia over 'failed anti-drug policies'

Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro, pictured here in Havana in December, claims the US, Colombia and Brazil have conspired to assassinate him (AFP Photo/Yamil LAGE)

Caracas (AFP) - Venezuela's government on Thursday accused the United States and Colombia of ganging up on President Nicolas Maduro's regime in a bid to deflect attention from their "failed anti-drugs policies."

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Colombia President Ivan Duque on Wednesday, after which they vowed to "help Venezuelans recover their democratic heritage" and "reject the Venezuelan dictatorship."

A Venezuelan foreign ministry statement said the "anti-Venezuelan rhetoric" was designed to "distract public opinion from the resounding failure" of the two countries' anti-drugs policies.

Meeting in the Caribbean city of Cartagena, Pompeo and Duque had discussed how to "restore democracy and constitutional order" in Venezuela, where Maduro is due to begin his second presidential mandate on January 10.

Caracas responded by blasting that as an "interventionist position" designed to "subjugate and violate the sovereignty and self-determination of the Venezuelan people."

Maduro won an election in 2018 that was branded a fraud by the US, European Union and Organization of American States.

The foreign ministry said that despite the US maintaining "at least seven military bases in Colombia and having squandered billions of dollars in the supposed fight against drug-trafficking, the plantations and production of illicit drugs in Colombian territory have increased dramatically in the last few years."

Maduro has accused Colombia and Brazil of collaborating with Washington to overthrow and assassinate him, although both neighboring South American countries have dismissed any suggestions of a military intervention.

Venezuela is in the midst of a four-year recession and economic crisis -- the International Monetary Fund predicts inflation will reach a mind-boggling 10 million percent this year -- that has provoked a mass exodus of migrants.

According to the United Nations, 2.3 million Venezuelans have fled since 2015 as those who remain face shortages of basic necessities such as food and medicine, as well as failing public services, including water, electricity and transport.

Colombia alone has taken in a million Venezuelans fleeing poverty.