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Venezuela's Maduro accuses US government of fabricating crisis to start war in South America

Protest in Caracas Against Nicolás Maduro
Posted at 7:49 PM, Feb 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-25 19:49:57-05

Embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accused the U.S. government of trying to fabricate a crisis to start a war in South America in his first interview with an American television network in years.

"Everything that the United States government has done has been doomed to failure," Maduro told ABC News' Tom Llamas in Spanish from the presidential palace in Caracas. "They are trying to fabricate a crisis to justify political escalation and a military intervention in Venezuela to bring a war to South America."

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Colombia Monday morning to deliver a message from President Donald Trump to Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido: "We are with you 100 percent." There, he announced that the U.S. will provide an additional $56 million in aid to Venezuelan citizens and that the U.S. Treasury Department would be imposing "stronger sanctions" on the Maduro regime's "corrupt financial networks."

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Maduro said that the meeting in Bogota was "part of that politics to attempt to establish a parallel government in Venezuela." He added that the U.S. "wants Venezuela's oil" and is "willing to go to war for that oil."

"The extremist Ku Klux Klan government that Donald Trump directs wants a war over oil, and more than just oil", he said, describing Venezuela as a "pacifist, humble nation."

Around 50 countries no longer recognize Maduro as Venezuela's president and have announced that they view Guaido as the country's legitimate leader.

When asked if he would allow opposition Venezuela leader Juan Guaido back into the country, Maduro said. "He can leave and come back and will have to see the face of justice because justice had prohibited him from him leaving the country."

"He has to respect the laws," Maduro said.

Last Thursday, Maduro closed Venezuela's border to Brazil ahead of opposition plans to bring in humanitarian aid despite Guadio's objection. At least a dozen people were injured and one woman was killed by authorities during clashes at the Brazilian border over the weekend, The Associated Press reported.

On Tuesday, Venezuelan officials said that the country was banning air and sea trips to and from three Dutch Caribbean Islands, AP reported. The region has been linked to efforts to undermine Maduro by sending aid to Venezuela, according to AP.

Maduro blocked a convoy carrying American humanitarian aid that arrived at the Colombia-Venezuela border earlier this month. He has blocked aid from entering the country for years.

Trump, Venezuela's opposition and Guaido have put pressure on Maduro to let the aid in. Venezuela's military has so far largely stood by the embattled president, who refuses to leave power.

Pence met with Guaido as well as Colombian President Ivan Duque Marquez in Bogota Monday before he addressed the Lima Group on the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

"President Duque we are grateful for your stand for freedom," Pence said. "President Guaido, we admire your courage and the courage of the other opposition leaders."

Trump warned Venezuela's military last week that standing by Maduro could make them "lose everything" and in a speech Monday to the country's exiled community in South Florida, called Maduro "a Cuban puppet."

Guadio also spoke from Bogota Thursday, saying the world saw the real Venezuela on Saturday during the violence that occurred as the opposition tried to force humanitarian aid into the country.

"And the world saw within hours on Saturday what Venezuela has lived with for years: the destruction of the production, the burning of food, the burning of medicine that could save lives," Guaido said.

He added: "We must insist with the attention to the humanitarian emergency, to protect our people and of course we are in Bogota today thankful for the invitation that today formally incorporates into the Lima Group."

Maduro said Thursday in televised comments that he was considering closing the Colombia border, saying the stockpiling of aid in Cucuta was a "provocation" and a cheap show by the opposition to undermine his government.

Dueling aid concerts took place over the weekend on either side of the Venezuelan border. Maduro announced that his administration would be hosting its own two-day concert at the Simón Bolívar International Bridge on Friday and Saturday after billionaire Richard Branson, a critic of the Maduro regime, announced that he would be sponsoring a Live Aid-style benefit concert in Cucuta.

ABC News' Esther Castillejo, Conor Finnegan, Ben Gittleson, Rashid Haddou, Meredith McGraw, Davi Merchan, Kirit Radia and Bruno Roeber contributed to this report.