The Latest: Venezuela’s Maduro lashes out at US, allies

CARACAS, Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The Latest on Venezuela’s political crisis (all times local):

2:15 p.m.

Venezuela’s president is accusing Washington and its regional allies of a campaign of lies against his country in order to appropriate the world’s largest oil reserves.

Nicolas Maduro says “they come walking down the middle of the street barking orders, treating rulers like their maids.”

He suggests that their ultimate goal is “our immense petroleum wealth.”

Maduro’s comments appear to be a response to President Donald’s Trump’s threat to slap economic sanctions on Venezuela after a special assembly packed with government loyalists was installed Friday. Its mission is to rewrite the nation’s constitution, but many fear it will lead to a new crackdown on the president’s political opponents.

Maduro spoke in an interview with Radio Rebelde of Argentina on Saturday, shortly before the assembly ordered the removal of Venezuela’s chief prosecutor, a onetime loyalist turned staunch critic of the government.


1:45 p.m.

President Trump’s top national security adviser says he doesn’t see a military intervention in Venezuela as likely, even as he’s calling on nations to help “rescue” the country from “authoritarian dictatorship.”

General H.R. McMaster notes the historical resentment in Latin America over the United States’ long history of military interventions in the region. He says he doesn’t want to give Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro any added ammunition to blame the “Yankees” for the oil-rich nation’s economic and political crisis.

McMaster says in an interview with Hugh Hewitt that aired Saturday on MSNBC that “You’ve seen Maduro have some lame attempts to try to do that already.”

He adds that “it’s important for us to place responsibility for this catastrophe on Maduro’s shoulders. He is the one who has caused it, and he’s the one who’s perpetuating it.”

McMaster singles out backing from Cuba as well as financial support from China and Russia for keeping Maduro in power.

The Trump administration slapped sanctions on Maduro following the recent election of a constitutional assembly with authority trumping all other branches of government.

Maduro accuses Washington of conspiring with Venezuela’s opposition to seek his ouster. He repeated his claim that Venezuela is the victim of international aggression in an interview with Argentina’s Radio Rebelde on Saturday.

In his words: “The United States has historically believed itself the owner of Latin America.”


11:45 a.m.

Venezuela’s newly installed constitutional assembly has voted unanimously to remove chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega and replaced her with a government loyalist.

As the vote was taking place, pro-government delegates shouted “traitor” and “justice has arrived!”

She will be replaced by Tarek William Saab, a staunch government supporter who currently serves as the nation’s ombudsman.

Saturday’s vote came after security forces took control of the entrance to the prosecutor’s office in downtown Caracas and barred Ortega from entering.

Human rights groups and foreign governments have denounced attacks by government officials on Ortega, the nation’s top law enforcement official.


11:30 a.m.

The South American trade bloc Mercosur has decided to suspend Venezuela for failing to follow democratic norms.

Venezuela was previously suspended in December for failing to uphold commitments it made when it joined the group in 2012.

Saturday’s decision will make it harder for the country to return to good standing since the new suspension can only be lifted when the bloc is satisfied that Venezuela has restored democratic order.

The meeting of Mercosur foreign ministers in Sao Paulo on Saturday comes as Venezuela’s newly formed constitutional assembly pledged to move quickly against President Nicolas Maduro’s opponents.

The assembly will have sweeping powers and the opposition fears it will be used to strengthen Maduro’s power and crack down further on dissent.


11:20 a.m.

Venezuela’s chief prosecutor says she is being barred from entering her offices by security forces that surrounded the building as a pro-government constitutional assembly is expected to consider removing her.

Luisa Ortega says troops pushed and “attacked” her with their riot shields to prevent her from accessing the headquarters of the public ministry.

She accuses authorities of trying to hide corruption and human rights violations.

Ortega spoke Saturday to journalists gathered beyond a heavy security perimeter set up by hundreds of national guardsmen.

Ortega was a longtime loyalist who broke with President Nicolas Maduro in April, accusing him of violating the nation’s constitutional order.

Several members of the newly installed assembly tasked with rewriting Venezuela’s constitution say they want to remove her as part of their first order of business.


7:55 a.m.

A few dozen members of Venezuela’s national guard have surrounded the offices of the chief prosecutor before her possible removal by a newly-empowered constitutional assembly.

The troops, numbering around 30, arrived early Saturday and closed off access to the building in downtown Caracas where Luisa Ortega’s office is located.

There was no immediate explanation by the government but Ortega tweeted photos of the troop movements to denounce what she called an arbitrary “siege” of her office.

The pro-government constitutional assembly meets Saturday after convening a day earlier for the first time. Top on the agenda is expected to be a proposal to remove Ortega, a longtime loyalist who broke with President Nicolas Maduro’s government amid widespread protests in April over what she said was his breaking of Venezuela’s constitutional order.


12 a.m.

The head of Venezuela’s newly installed constitutional assembly pledged to move quickly against President Nicolas Maduro’s political opponents, beginning as early as the all-powerful body’s second meeting on Saturday.

Former Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez’s nomination as leader was unanimously approved by the assembly’s 545 delegates in Friday’s session, which was held despite strong criticism from Washington and Venezuela’s opposition, which fear the body will be a tool for imposing dictatorship. Supporters say it will pacify a country rocked by violent protests.

The assembly was scheduled to meet again Saturday, and Rodriguez said it would be taking action against the socialist government’s opponents.

Categories: International News