Venezuela on Thursday unveiled a group of nations opposed to the US-led effort to topple President Nicolas Maduro, with Russia, Iran and Palestine among those backing the besieged South American country's government.
In a remarkable statement delivered in New York, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, standing beside numerous permanent representatives to the United Nations, said the group would begin joint action, citing alleged breaches of the UN charter by the US in its recognition of opposition leader Juan Guaido and warnings of a military intervention.
“Today we are announcing an important group of nations concerned about the need to retain respect for the founding principles of the UN charter,” Mr Arreaza said, citing sovereignty, equality of UN members in the General Assembly, non-intervention in domestic affairs, and the need to settle disputes in a peaceful manner.
“We believe that these principles are being violated. We all have the right to live without the threat of force,” he said.
The collective action by those assembled follows weeks of pressure from the United States and backing from other countries for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has declared himself president.
US President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton has warned that “all options are on the table” if any harm comes to Mr Guaido, alluding to the use of force, and was pictured last month holding a notebook on which was scrawled “5,000 troops to Colombia,” which neighbours the crisis-hit country.
Mr Arreaza said the anti-US group, which officials said numbered more than 50 countries, would soon announce its plans to take action against the US, which he said was trying to starve Venezuela and oust the socialist government.
“The US has blocked our economy of $30 billion... and they are sending humanitarian aid of $20 million? [They are] choking you, killing you and now saying 'I am giving you a cookie,” he said, describing the US plan as a failed attempt to turn Venezuela's armed forces against Mr Maduro.
“This test of loyalty of the military, it's over. You need to rethink your strategy,” he added in remarks unquestionably addressed at the US.
Russia's permanent representative to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, said: “We are very concerned that some hot heads are considering military action. We are categorically against it. It's not just about the Maduro government. It's about defending international law and the UN Charter.”
Although many Western countries have recognised Mr Guaido as a legitimate head of state, Mr Maduro retains control of state institutions and his opponent needs funds if he is to assemble an interim government.
On Wednesday, the opposition-controlled congress in Caracas named a new temporary board of directors to state-oil firm PDVSA – sanctioned last month by the US – in an effort to wrest the OPEC nation’s oil revenues from the government.