As the US continues to send not-so-subtle signals that it could be open to a military invasion of Venezuela after a US-supported coup plot involving Venezuelan military officers fizzled, Nicolas Maduro - who only a few months ago evaded a bizarre assassination attempt involving C4-laden drones - has accused the Trump Administration of conspiring to have him assassinated.
When approached for a response to Maduro's comments, a White House spokesman did little to rebut his claims, saying only that the US's "policy preference" is "for a peaceful, orderly return to democracy in Venezuela." Given Venezuela's ailing energy infrastructure, and US sanctions that have made it difficult for the Maduro regime to sell its oil or tap capital markets for funding, the government has been forced to rely on China and, to a lesser extent, Russia to keep it afloat.
But China's latest money for oil deal hasn't been enough to plug the gaping hole in the socialist country's budget, and the country's frenzied money printing has stoked expectations that the country's inflation rate will surge to 1.37 million percent by the end of next year. Meanwhile, the IMF earlier this week reaffirmed its forecast that Venezuela's GDP will shrink by 18% during 2018.
Nearly 2 million Venezuelans have fled since 2015 as the economic mismanagement under Maduro left the oil rich nation with crippling shortages of food and medicine. In response, Maduro has authorized violent crackdowns on street protests and dissent. Earlier this week, the US accused Maduro of ordering the death of a jailed opposition leader who died in police custody. They say he killed himself.
But in a televised broadcast, Maduro accused Colombia and the US of conspiring to kill him. The president has long claimed that he has been the target of an "economic war" orchestrated by Washington that has been the true cause of Venezuela's societal collapse.
"They have given the order from the White House that Maduro be killed," said Maduro, flanked by workers. He vowed that "they will not even touch a single hair of mine."
As usual, Maduro didn't provide any evidence to back up his claims. But in a country where even a cup of coffee is an unaffordable luxury, we imagine that even those who initially supported Maduro and his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, have long since grown tired of this rhetoric.