Embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro blamed President Trump’s “extremists” for creating the political and economic upheaval that threatens his hold over the South American country.
“The extremists of the White House have taken it upon themselves to carry out a coup in Venezuela,” Maduro told the BBC in an interview that aired Tuesday.
He has come under internal and global pressure to hold free elections as the crisis escalates, leading to millions of Venezuelans leaving because of food and medicine shortages.
Maduro, speaking from Caracas, said that’s all part of the Trump administration’s long-term plan.
“Venezuela is a country that has dignity, and the United States has intended to create a humanitarian crisis in order to justify a military intervention, ‘humanitarian.’ And this is part of that show,” he said in the interview.
But he said his country will reject the “minuscule crumbs that they intend to bring with toxic food, with leftovers that they have.”
The Trump administration and a number of Western countries have recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as the interim president.
Pressed by interviewer Orla Guerin that his election last year is in dispute and that more than 50 governments back Guaido, Maduro questioned her facts and her motives.
“Fifty, where did you get that number from? Where do you get your numbers from, really? You bring a mental picture that you should check,” he said. “I am not going to tell you more because really it’s on your part. If you are an objective journalist, stable, or you only come here to verify your war campaign, the BBC’s war campaign, and the western campaign against Venezuela.”
The Trump White House has not ruled out using military force if the crisis in Venezuela continues to spiral out of control and affects US national security.
Maduro, who still retains the backing of the military, said if needed he would battle US forces if they entered his country.
“They would not leave us any other option. We would have to defend the right of our country to exist. To defend our right to peace. I hope that doesn’t happen,” he said.
Still, he said he believes an extreme elements of the Ku Klux Klan lead the US and their message of hate has spread around the world.
“They hate us Latin Americans, Central Americans, Mexicans, Venezuelans. They hate us, they belittle us, they hate the entire world, because they only believe in their own interests, and in the interests of the United States,” he said.