Maduro blasts US for 'stealing' billions | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 17, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 17, 2019

Maduro blasts US for 'stealing' billions

President Nicolas Maduro hit out at the United States on Friday for "stealing" billions of dollars and offering "crumbs" in return as humanitarian aid, as Washington sanctioned five officials close to the Venezuelan leader.

Tons of US aid is piling up in Colombia close to the border with Venezuela as opposition leader Juan Guaido has vowed to defy Maduro's efforts to block the supplies from entering the country.

"It's a booby trap, they're putting on a show with rotten and contaminated food," said Maduro, speaking at an event in the southeastern town of Ciudad Bolivar.

"They've stolen $30 billion and are offering four crumbs of rotten food," added the beleaguered socialist leader, referring to the United States.

Later Friday, Maduro asked the military to prepare for a "special deployment" to reinforce the border with Colombia -- and make it "impregnable."

"I am not exaggerating. In the White House, Donald Trump and Ivan Duque announced plans for war against Venezuela," he said, referring to a meeting on Wednesday in which President Donald Trump reiterated that "all options" were on the table with regard to Venezuela.

The country is in the midst of an economic crisis that has left millions in poverty and facing shortages of basic necessities such as food and medicine.

Guaido, who is recognized by 50 countries as the interim president, accuses Maduro of causing economic hardship through mismanagement.

Among those countries is Costa Rica, whose foreign affairs ministry on Friday gave three Maduro-appointed diplomats "60 calendar days" to leave the country.

Maduro meanwhile blames Venezuela's woes on US sanctions.

The 56-year-old, the hand-picked successor to socialist firebrand Hugo Chavez, branded it the "war of the oligarchy."

US sanctions mostly target regime individuals and state oil company PDVSA, the government's main source of income, but the US Treasury announced Friday that it was imposing sanctions on five intelligence and security officials close to Maduro.

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