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Maduro lashes out at US’s Pence for encouraging defections

Maduro lashes out at US’s Pence for encouraging defections

Maduro lashes out at US’s Pence for encouraging defections
May 09
12:50 2019

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has harshly rebuked US Vice President Mike Pence for attempting to entice members of the Venezuelan military to turn against the legitimately-elected government in Caracas.

Maduro said on Wednesday that the US vice president’s recent offer of new incentives to Venezuela’s military potential defectors disrespected the “honor” and “dignity” of the country’s armed forces.

“Yesterday, Mike Pence declared that the soldier who betrays the country and goes for the side of the gringos… they will reward him; [that is] a lack of respect for honor, morals, and the dignity of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces,” the Venezuelan president said, using a derogatory term for Americans.

Maduro said Pence believed he could give orders to the Venezuelan military, while, he, as president and commander-in-chief of Venezuela’s Armed Forces, was the only individual who could do so.

“It is the colonial imperialist vision; they believe that they give an order and the Venezuelan military will say ‘Already understood Mr. Pence!’ No, Mike Pence! The constitutional, legitimate commander-in-chief of our National Bolivarian Armed Forces… you have it here in front of you, and it’s called Nicolas Maduro,” he said.

On Tuesday, Washington lifted sanctions on a former Venezuelan general who had broken ranks with Maduro to support opposition figure Juan Guaido. Pence declared that the move was aimed at encouraging other members of the military to abandon their support for the 56-year-old socialist leader.

Pence also repeated Washington’s threat to impose sanctions against all 25 magistrates of the Supreme Court of Venezuela, accusing them of not upholding the rule of law in the country.

Maikel Moreno, the head of Venezuela’s Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ), rejected Pence’s threat as “disrespectful and interfering.”

“The judges and magistrates of the TSJ categorically and forcefully reject the threat made by Mr. Pence, who, in a disrespectful and interfering manner, seeks to subjugate the highest Venezuelan judicial authorities through threats that violate the principles of independence of self-determination and sovereignty,” Moreno said.

He also said the TSJ will not be blackmailed or subordinate itself to a foreign government “that seeks to circumvent the sovereignty” of Venezuela.

Guaido’s deputy arrested

Separately on Wednesday, Guaido, who is also head of the country’s defunct National Assembly, claimed that his deputy had been detained by authorities.

The 35-year-old opposition figure said Edgar Zambrano, the vice president of the assembly, was arrested for backing a failed coup attempt on April 30.

​Venezuelan opposition figure Juan Guaido (R) talks to Edgar Zambrano, his deputy, in a session of the defunct National Assembly, in Caracas, Venezuela, on March 6, 2019. (Photo by Reuters)

Last Tuesday, a small group of armed troops accompanying Guaido clashed with soldiers at an anti-government rally in the capital, Caracas, in an attempted coup that soon petered out.

The administration of US President Donald Trump, which has recognized a self-proclamation by Guaido as the “interim president” of Venezuela, quickly backed the attempted putsch.

Maduro warns of military conflict with Colombia

Meanwhile, Maduro warned Wednesday of a possible “military escalation” with neighboring Colombia after Bogota made anti-Caracas accusations.

“There is an escalation of statements that could end in a military escalation on the border […] involving the criminal forces of Colombia against Venezuela[…] Everything is part of the US imperialist plan,” the Venezuelan president said.

Maduro’s remarks came after the Colombian Foreign Ministry blasted Venezuela for what it called “repeated provocations.” The ministry claimed that 30 Venezuelan military personnel crossed into the Colombian territory but withdrew after Bogota sent a helicopter with soldiers to the area in response to calls from locals.

Colombia frequently complains of territorial incursions by the Venezuelan military. Caracas broke off diplomatic relations with Bogota in February after it recognized Guaido’s self-proclamation.

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