Venezuela has canceled its participation in a round of talks with the United States-backed opposition in protest at a move by Washington to freeze all Venezuelan government assets in America.
The Venezuelan government said in a statement on Wednesday that President Nicolas Maduro “has decided not to send the Venezuelan delegation” to talks with the opposition on Thursday and Friday “due to the grave and brutal aggression” being “continuously… carried out by the Trump administration against Venezuela, which includes the illegal blocking of our economic, commercial, and financial activities.”
On Monday, the administration of US President Donald Trump froze all Venezuelan government assets in the US and barred transactions with Caracas.
The US had frozen some Venezuelan assets in America in the past, channeling them to opposition figure Juan Guaido.
The talks before the weekend were supposed to be held with Guaido’s representatives.
Venezuela plunged into unprecedented political turmoil in January when the opposition figure declared himself “interim president” of the country, a move that received immediate recognition from Washington.
The US sanctions are meant to unseat Maduro’s elected government.
The Venezuelan government and opposition began holding peace talks in Barbados — an eastern Caribbean island and an independent British Commonwealth nation — in July in an effort to iron out sharp differences.
Guaido rejects Maduro’s election win in May 2018 and demands fresh elections, making allegations of vote-rigging. However, the Venezuelan president says he has been democratically elected and calls for “democratic cohabitation.”
Separately on Wednesday, thousands of Maduro’s supporters, dressed in red and waving Venezuelan flags, marched through the streets of Caracas, defending the president and protesting the US sanctions.
The White House has threatened to “use every appropriate tool” to unseat Maduro, and warned Venezuelan allies Russia and China on Tuesday against doing business with Caracas.
China has responded by calling on Washington to stop “bullying” other countries.
Venezuela is experiencing a political crisis that intensified in January after the US-backed opposition leader, Juan Guaido, proclaimed himself interim president. The United States, as well as the European Union, imposed sanctions on Venezuela and froze its assets. Maduro called Guaido a US puppet and accused Washington of orchestrating a change of government in order to claim Venezuelan natural resources.