CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro railed at two of his main international critics on Wednesday, chiding Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy for “meddling” and mocking U.S. President Donald Trump for geographical ignorance.
The United States has recently imposed sanctions on Venezuelan officials and Spain is pressing for the European Union to follow suit as international pressure grows on Maduro over his record on human rights and democracy.
“Why is the global right wing so obsessed with our homeland?” leftist Maduro responded in an address on state TV.
Lampooning “little Mariano” for mispronouncing his name “Madero”, Maduro said the conservative leader should focus instead on Spain’s internal problems, Catalonia’s independence push, and Europe’s problematic relations with Washington.
“Forget talking about Venezuela, which is a homeland of dignity,” Maduro said. “I reject and repudiate Mariano Rajoy’s meddling, rude, absurd comments against Venezuela.”
Maduro faces global criticism that he has turned Venezuela into a dictatorship with the creation of an all-powerful Constituent Assembly, jailing of political opponents and quashing of protests this year in which 125 people died.
The United States has issued several rounds of sanctions against Venezuela and Spain is pushing the European Union to adopt restrictive measures against members of Maduro’s government.
Having in recent days labeled Trump a “Hitler” and “imperial emperor” supporting violent coup-plotters in Venezuela, Maduro took aim this time at the Republican’s intellect.
“Donald Trump doesn’t even know where Venezuela is. Give him a map, and he can’t find Venezuela,” the Venezuelan leader said of Trump, widely ridiculed last week for referring to a non-existent African country “Nambia”.
Maduro’s comments were a response to remarks by Trump and Rajoy after a White House meeting on Tuesday.
The Venezuelan president has not yet commented on the opposition’s decision to boycott talks scheduled for Wednesday with the government in the Dominican Republic in hope of resolving the OPEC nation’s deep political crisis.
The government had eagerly promoted the talks, while the opposition was reluctant from the outset, saying there was no sign of possible concessions.
“The moment came to say ‘we want concrete steps, not good intentions’,” Luis Florido, spokesman for the opposition negotiating team, told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday.
“We can’t go to the Dominican Republic and just talk about anything ... We have learnt from the errors of past processes,” he added, referring to failed Vatican-led talks in 2016.
The opposition wants a date for the next presidential election, due by the end of 2018, with guarantees it will be free and fair. It is also calling for freedom for hundreds of jailed activists, a foreign humanitarian aid corridor and respect for the opposition-led congress.
Maduro repeatedly calls opposition leaders pawns of the United States intent on toppling him by force. He says the Constituent Assembly, elected in August in a vote boycotted by the opposition and condemned by various foreign powers, has brought peace to the nation of 30 million.
Reporting by Diego Ore and Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Andrew Hay
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