Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has started his campaign for another term in office with fierce rhetoric against the United States’ meddlesome behavior toward his country, saying US President Donald Trump is “not the boss of Venezuela.”
The Venezuelan leader made the remarks at a campaign rally in the capital, Caracas, late on Tuesday, a day after he confirmed he was prepared to run in elections called by the government-allied Constitutional Assembly earlier than scheduled.
“The people rule in Venezuela, not empires. I’m ready… We’re going to win big,” he said at the rally.
The assembly called for the presidential election to be held in April, bringing the date forward from an initial end-of-the year timetable. The new date now has to be approved by the National Electoral Council.
The 55-year-old Maduro, who came to power after the late Hugo Chavez in 2013, has survived massive anti-government protests during the past two years. Critics blame him for destroying the economy of the once-prosperous country, causing an acute economic crisis and shortages of basic commodities such as foodstuffs. Opponents also accuse Maduro of turning the Latin American country into a dictatorship and seeking to consolidate power for his United Socialist Party of Venezuela.
The government claims the right-wing opposition is incited by the US to topple his socialist government, hobble the country’s economy, and plunder its oil wealth. Authorities blame foreign sanctions, led by Washington, for the food and medicine shortages in the country. Venezuela now has the highest inflation rate in the world.
Last year, Trump slapped bans on Maduro, labeling him “a dictator who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people.”
The sanctions come amid efforts by regional bodies in the South America region to mediate between Maduro’s government and the opposition.
The Venezuelan opposition, which has constantly called for a new presidential election amid a political crisis in the country, now accuses Maduro of “merely dressing up authoritarianism in the guise of democracy” by changing the date of the election.
Some opposition figures, including Leopoldo Lopez and Henrique Capriles, have been barred from running.
Political unrest began in Venezuela in 2016 and intensified last year. At least 125 have been killed from both the government and opposition camps.