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Trump out to kill me, says Maduro

Venezuela’s socialist leader Nicolas Maduro accused US President Donald Trump of ordering his assassination while his main global backer, Russia, called on Wednesday for mediation in a standoff deepening geopolitical splits.

The fight to control Venezuela, which has the world’s largest oil reserves, has intensified with new US sanctions and legal moves that may bring the arrest of opposition leader and self-declared interim president Juan Guaido.

In an interview with Moscow’s RIA news agency, Maduro, 56, facing the biggest challenge to his rule since replacing Hugo Chavez six years ago, said Trump had ordered neighbouring Colombia to murder him.

“Donald Trump has without doubt given an order to kill me and has told the government of Colombia and the Colombian mafia to kill me,” Maduro said, reprising a constant accusation of his and Chavez’s.

Bogota and Washington have routinely denied that, while foes say Maduro uses such accusations as a smokescreen when in trouble.

However, speculation of military action against him was fuelled this week when Trump adviser John Bolton carried a notepad with the words “5,000 troops to Colombia”.

In a tweet, Trump warned US citizens against travelling to Venezuela, given the unrest.

It comes as Guaido called on the European Union to level more sanctions against Maduro’s government.

“We need more sanctions from the EU, like those decided by the US,” Guaido said.

“We live in a dictatorship and there must be pressure.

“More and more people are being murdered,” he said, according to Germany’s Bild.

“There’s no doubt that the regime is totally corrupt. [Maduro] is a dictator.”

Russia, which like China has loaned and invested billions in Opec member Venezuela, called on Guaido to drop his demand for a snap election and instead accept mediation.

However, given the failure of previous rounds of dialogue, including one led by the Vatican, opponents are suspicious, believing Maduro uses them to quell protests and buy time.

Venezuela’s Supreme Court has imposed a travel ban on Guaido and frozen his bank accounts in apparent retaliation for oil sanctions imposed by the United States that are expected to severely hit an already collapsing economy.

The US is Venezuela’s largest crude importer, ahead of India and China, but the new measures limit transactions between US companies and state oil company PDVSA.

Guaido, 35, president of the National Assembly, says Maduro fraudulently won a second term in 2018 and is offering an amnesty to military officials.

Maduro, who accuses Guaido of staging a US-directed coup against him, still has the support of the military brass.

In the RIA interview, Maduro reiterated he was ready for talks with the opposition, but rejected calls for a snap election as blackmail.

“I won legitimately,” he said. “If the imperialists want a new election, let them wait until 2025.”

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