Washington and Moscow traded barbs over Venezuela on Sunday with Russia’s foreign minister urging the United States to abandon its “irresponsible” plan to depose Nicolás Maduro and his US counterpart slamming Russian meddling in the South American country.
Sergey Lavrov made the comments during a visit to Moscow by Venezuela’s foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza – an apparent bid to stress international support for Maduro following last week’s abortive uprising against him in Caracas.
“Attempts to stage a violent upheaval in Caracas have nothing to do with democratic process, and only disrupt any prospects of political settlement,” Lavrov said, according to the Moscow-backed broadcaster RT.
Any US attempt to topple Maduro through force would bring “grave consequences,” Lavrov reportedly warned.
Earlier, the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, urged Russia – which, alongside China, is one of Maduro’s two key international backers – to stop interfering in Venezuela.
“We want [Venezuela] to be an autonomous, independent sovereign state, with democratic elected officials. This is what we desire for the Venezuelan people,” Pompeo, who is due to meet Lavrov in Finland on Monday, told Fox News.
“We don’t want anyone messing around with Venezuela.”
The exchange came after Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin held a 90-minute phone call on Friday, after which Trump claimed Putin was “not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela, other than he’d like to see something positive happen”.
Five days after Tuesday’s dramatic predawn attempt to remove Maduro, an uneasy calm has returned to the streets of Venezuela’s capital.
The only reminders of the failed revolt are stretches of scorched asphalt outside the La Carlota airbase beside which it began and a handful of graffitied messages left by protesters on a nearby overpass. “Freedom! Freedom! No more bullets!” reads one.
On Saturday, Venezuela’s opposition held a series of anti-Maduro protests designed to maintain the pressure. But attendance was far short of the massive demonstrations held since Juan Guaidó – the man most western governments now recognize as Venezuela’s legitimate interim president – launched his US-backed challenge to Maduro in January.
Sol Castro, a retired university professor who attended one protest in west Caracas, said she feared the solution to Venezuela’s crisis increasingly appeared to lie in foreign hands.
“[It feels like] we may be approaching an end … but [also] that we’re only pawns in a larger game where superpowers, or former superpowers, or superpower wannabes will decide when and how this ends,” Castro said.
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