September 30, 2019 / 8:39 PM / 15 days ago

Venezuela's Maduro says Trump merits 'a thousand impeachments'

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, under fire all year to quit from the United States and its allies, exulted on Monday in the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, though he did not expect the White House to let up against him.

FILE PHOTO: Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro gestures as he speaks during a news conference in Caracas, Venezuela, September 30, 2019. REUTERS/Manaure Quintero

Trump is under fire over his request to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for an investigation into Joe Biden, a leading Democratic candidate to challenge him in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

“I wasn’t surprised, because that’s what Donald Trump does every day against Venezuela,” said Maduro, whom Trump and dozens of other nations in the West and around Latin America have said rigged a 2018 election and is thus a usurper.

The leftist Venezuelan leader accused Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of bombarding foreign leaders and officials with calls threatening to withdraw aid and block loans as part of their campaign to topple him.

“Donald Trump should have a thousand impeachments against him for the thousand calls and thousand acts of extortion he has carried out against governments to harm Venezuela,” Maduro added at a news conference in Caracas.

Some analysts believe the impeachment inquiry may distract Trump from foreign policy priorities, including leading international efforts against Maduro.

But the Venezuelan leader did not share that view.

“What is going to change towards Venezuela? Nothing. Because that is the policy of the empire,” Maduro said.

“They believe Latin America and the Caribbean is their backyard and belongs to them ... If they checked all (Trump’s) calls in the last year, they would find enough evidence to prove the abuse of power against noble Venezuela.”

Washington recognises Congress head and opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim leader, but Maduro retains power due to the loyalty of the armed forces and international support from China and Russia.

Both the United States and European Union (EU) slapped new sanctions on Maduro’s government last week, demanding free elections as the way out of Venezuela’s political crisis.

“We’re not bothered by the European Union sanctions. We laugh at the European Union sanctions,” scoffed Maduro, casting the bloc as a failed group following U.S. orders.

Opposition leader Guaido welcomed the new EU travel bans and asset freezes on another seven Venezuelan officials, saying it demonstrated the global pressure on Maduro.

“While the regime is alone and exposed, we are advancing on all fronts,” he told a news conference.

Reporting by Shaylim Valderrama and Andrew Cawthorne; Additional reporting by Vivian Sequera; Editing by Brian Ellsworth and David Gregorio

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