Venezuela’s top diplomat has accused US President Donald Trump of acting like “the world’s emperor,” batting back Trump’s biting rebukes of Venezuela on the global stage of the UN General Assembly.
Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza’s speech at assembly came a day after Trump signed a travel ban affecting some Venezuelan officials, and nearly a week after Trump denounced turmoil-racked Venezuela’s “corrupt regime” in his own address to the assembly’s annual gathering of world leaders.
“As if he were the world’s emperor, the president of the United States, Donald Trump, used this podium built for peace to announce wars, total destruction of member states” and “coercive measures, threatening and judging as if he had absolute, dictatorial powers over the sovereign member states of our organisation,” Arreaza said. Trump had threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if forced to defend the US or its allies.
Invoking former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s famous quip that the podium “smells like sulfur” after then-US President George W Bush addressed the assembly in 2006, Arreaza said: “It’s still valid.” But he added later that his country was open to dialogue with the US.
Venezuela’s government has faced international criticism since the country’s Supreme Court gutted the opposition-controlled congress in March. The ruling was later reversed.
Recently, a new constitutional assembly composed entirely of government loyalists has gone after Maduro’s political opponents. Several opposition mayors and leaders have been jailed.
Tens of thousands of Venezuelans have fled the political tumult, triple-digit inflation and widespread shortages of food and medicine. The country’s oil-dependent economy spiralled into crisis after world oil prices began a plunge in 2014.
Trump’s administration slapped sweeping economic sanctions on Venezuela last month, and the president said he wouldn’t rule out US military action against the country. Last week, Trump devoted as much of his debut General Assembly speech to excoriating Venezuela as he did to North Korea, Syria and Iran.
“This corrupt regime destroyed a prosperous nation by imposing a failed ideology,” Trump said of the socialist country. He added that the US was “prepared to take further action if the government of Venezuela persists on its path to impose authoritarian rule.”
Maduro responded last week from Caracas by calling Trump “the new Hitler” of international politics and accusing Trump of threatening to assassinate him, though Trump did not say that.
On Sunday, Trump signed an order that will bar certain Venezuelan government officials and their immediate families from entering the US. The Trump administration says Venezuela’s government has been uncooperative in verifying whether its citizens represent national security threats.
Venezuela’s foreign ministry denounced the travel restrictions on Sunday as a form of “political and psychological terrorism.” Arreaza said at a news conference that it’s “an unfounded strategy to soften the public opinion and to try to make a case against Venezuela.”
He said his country is “looking for dialogue” with and channels to the Trump administration.
“For the moment, it has not been possible, but the will is there,” Arreaza said. “But, I insist, if they attack us in whatever area, we will respond strongly in defence of our homeland, of our people.”