CARACAS (AFP) – As Venezuela’s economic crisis deepens, President Nicolas Maduro has stepped up accusations of plots against his leftist government, lashing out most recently at US Vice President Joe Biden.
Just ten days ago Maduro had fondly referred to Biden as “comrade,” but on Sunday the Venezuelan leader was livid.
At a rally with several thousand supporters, Maduro angrily accused Biden of going behind his back in talks with regional leaders “to announce the overthrow of my government.”
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the allegations were “baseless and false,” and an attempt to distract from what’s taking place inside the country.
“The Venezuelan government should focus on the legitimate grievances of its people, which include repeated violations of the freedom of speech and assembly, as well as due process under the law,” she said.
Psaki also announced that the United States has imposed visa restrictions on more current and former Venezuelan officials who it deems to have engaged in human rights abuses and “acts of public corruption.” The officials were not identified. Maduro on Monday responded calling the new sanctions as “vulgar” and “offensive.”
Maduro’s popularity has plummeted to 20 percent over the past year, as the oil-rich country’s many woes — dire shortages, a shrinking economy, and high crime — have grown worse.