Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is warning that he’ll take up arms and lead a revolution if a government comes into power that wants to hand the country’s "riches" to “imperialist” forces.
In a campaign speech Wednesday, Maduro — who is hoping to win a new six-year term in a highly questioned May 20 election — accused his nearest opposition rival, Henri Falcón, of wanting to sell the country out to “the gringos.”
“If someday a government was in power that intended to hand over [our] riches, I would be the first one to raise the alarm, grab a gun and start an armed revolution with the people, if necessary,” he told a crowd of supporters in Vargas. “I would be the first one to do it, and call the people to arms.”
His opponent, Falcón, a one-time government supporter turned dissident, is struggling to attract voters who are wary that going to the polls will legitimize a deeply flawed electoral process. And most of the major opposition groups are calling for an outright boycott of the election.
Falcón has talked about dollarizing the economy and ramping up foreign investment to overcome a deep economic crisis that features hyperinflation and sporadic food and medicine shortages. Those woes have also generated an exodus, as more than 1 million people have fled the country in recent years.
On Wednesday, Maduro said the opposition’s “only offer” is to “hand over the country to the gringos and the European oligarchs.”
Maduro, who has been in power since 2013, has often said he’d resort to violence to defend the “Bolivarian Revolution” started by his late predecessor Hugo Chávez.
Venezuela is pushing ahead with snap elections as the United States, the European Union and many of its neighbors in the region have said the vote will neither be free nor transparent. In the run-up to the election, the government has sidelined key opposition parties and jailed or disqualified some of its most prominent opponents.
Maduro said he didn’t care if the elections were recognized around the world.
“I don’t give a damn what Europe says. I don’t give a damn about what Washington says,” he told the crowd. “I only care about what Venezuela’s youth, Venezuela’s women and Venezuela’s workers say. That’s what’s important to me.”