Nicolás Maduro has hit back at the “cowardly” and “disastrous” decision of a succession of European countries to recognise his rival, Juan Guaidó, as interim president, as Venezuela enters what many observers believe could be a critical week in its fast-escalating political crisis.
Addressing a military rally in the northern state of Aragua, Maduro said he was the target of a “gringo” plot to overthrow the Bolivarian revolution he had inherited from his political mentor, Hugo Chávez, after his death in 2013.
“I, Nicolás Maduro Moros, the legitimate and constitutional president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, swear … that I will defend with my very own life this homeland of Venezuela,” he vowed.
“We will never, ever hand over our country … The people will never surrender.”
Speaking after EU nations including Britain, Germany, Portugal and Spain, said they were throwing their weight behind his challenger, Maduro said his country was facing a historic test.
Rejecting calls for fresh presidential elections, he said: “I will carry on governing, together with the people, for the six years I have the right to govern for.”
He reserved particular venom for Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, who was among the first to announce that his country was turning its back on “Maduro’s regime”.
“Spain’s cowardly government has taken a disastrous decision … and I say to señor Pedro Sánchez, God doesn’t want this, but if one day a coup comes to pass, if one day a gringo military intervention comes to pass, your hands … will be covered in blood just as the hands of José María Aznar [Spanish PM from 1996 to 2004] were covered in blood in the Iraq war.
“History will remember you as a dummy who put himself at the service of the … interventionist policies of Donald Trump.
“Do we accept being given ultimatums in Venezuela?” Maduro bellowed. “No,” the crowd shouted back.
“We are nobody’s tramps … Do you want to transform our homeland into a colony of tramps? Do you want to see our homeland turned into a colony of slaves and tramps?” he asked.
Maduro also accused Trump – who on Sunday repeated that military action was an option – of being obsessed with invading Venezuela.
“He thinks that we can be intimidated. No … What is the causa belli that Donald Trump has to declare a military war on Venezuela. What is the cause? Is it oil? Is it iron? Is it aluminum? Is it gold or diamonds? Is it gas? Water? What is the cause?” Maduro asked.
Venezuela’s embattled leader also had ominous words for members of Venezuela’s newly emboldened opposition, accusing them of selling their souls to “the imperialist devil”.
Venezuela now needed to react like a skilled boxer, winding its opponent with a series of powerful blows: “Left, right, left, left, left, right, left. With both hands,” Maduro said.
“Let’s knock out … the traitors, the coup-mongers and those who call for a gringo intervention in Venezuela,” he added, to loud applause.
“[We] will defend our homeland with our own lives if necessary,” Maduro told supporters who had gathered to celebrate the 27th anniversary of the failed 1992 coup that catapulted Chávez to fame.