- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro alleged Wednesday that the U.S. wants him dead and that the Trump administration is working with the Colombian mafia to see that he’s assassinated.

In an interview with the Russian news agency RIA, the socialist leader opened the door to peace talks with political opposition leader Juan Guaido, saying he wants to find a resolution that’s best for the Venezuelan people. The U.S. and nations across the hemisphere last week recognized Mr. Guaido as the country’s rightful leader after Mr. Maduro won re-election in a vote widely viewed as fraudulent.

The White House vowed that “all options are on the table” to see that Mr. Maduro is ousted from office, purposefully leaving open the possibility of military intervention.

Mr. Maduro said the U.S. threats and actions by Washington last week have made clear that the Trump administration wants him dead.

“My destiny is in the hands of the Lord, I am a Christian, I believe in the defense of the Lord. … The people of Venezuela protect me all the time, we have a good intelligence service,” Mr. Maduro told RIA in the interview, which was published Wednesday. But without a doubt, Donald Trump gave the order to kill me, told the Colombian government, the Colombian mafia, to kill me.”

“If something happens to me once, Donald Trump and Colombian President Ivan Duque will be responsible,” he continued. “Meanwhile, they protect me, we have a good system of protection, and, moreover, we have more substantial protection — this is protection from God, who will give me a long life.”

The Trump administration this week threatened that Mr. Maduro would pay a high price if Mr. Guaido were imprisoned or killed. The opposition leader has called for a day of national walkouts on Wednesday to put pressure on the Maduro government to come to the negotiating table.

The socialist president has said he’s prepared to do that.

“I am ready to sit at the negotiating table with the opposition, so that we can speak for the good of Venezuela, for the world and its future,” he said.

But Mr. Maduro also rejected calls for a new election. While much of the world rejected the latest vote as illegitimate — Mr. Maduro barred his chief political opponents from running against him — the incumbent president defended the contest and strongly suggested that he’ll be in office for the next six years.

“I won 68 percent of the vote. I won legitimately, we held elections through a transparent electronic system, with international observation,” he said. “We do not accept the ultimatum from anyone in the world, do not accept blackmail. The presidential elections in Venezuela took place, and if the imperialists want new elections, let them wait for 2025.”

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