Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro mocked the renewal of sanctions on his country by the European Union on Thursday, claiming the organization had “gotten stuck on Donald Trump’s tail” and vowing, “not even a thousand Trumps emerging in Europe can handle us.”
Maduro was speaking at the launch of a socialist international book fair occurring despite Chinese coronavirus quarantine measures, because Maduro has imposed a system he has dubbed “7+7” in which strict lockdowns take place every other week, followed by a week of relative freedom. The system is unique around the world and not recommended by any major international medical or scientific body.
The EU does not recognize Maduro as president of Venezuela, as his official term in office ended in January 2019. At the time, Maduro refused to step aside, claiming legitimacy from an election widely considered fraudulent that received the lowest turnout in the modern history of the country. The federal legislature, the National Assembly, swore in an interim president, Juan Guaidó, tasked with organizing an emergency election session as soon as possible. The armed forces have not accepted Guaidó as president, and he has failed to exercise any executive power, save for appointing ambassadors to states friendly to his tenure.
The European Union extended sanctions on the Maduro regime, in place not just in response to his illegitimate stranglehold on power but to punish his regime for years of human rights atrocities against Venezuelans, on Thursday. The sanctions significantly limit the ability of 36 members of the Maduro regime to do business in Europe and blocks arms sales and other general state business between Maduro’s Venezuela and European states. They will stay in place through November 2021. The Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional noted this week that Maduro is under over 300 different sanctions from Europe, the United States, and other entities.
The decision to extend sanctions “was taken before the current political, economic, social, and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, with persistent actions that undermine democracy, the state of rights, and respect for human rights,” according to an EU statement.
“The European Union is stuck to Donald Trump’s tail and, in a cruel and failed way, continue with their sanctions policy,” Maduro said on Thursday during the book fair launch. “It got stuck to Trump’s tail with the embarrassing, infuriating, and sad role the European Union is playing against the people of Venezuela.”
“Venezuela wins, they have not and will not be able to handle us with sanctions or threats,” Maduro asserted. “Neither Donald Trump nor a thousand Trumps emerging in Europe will be able to handle us.”
Elsewhere in his book fair event remarks, Maduro applauded the return of Evo Morales – a socialist strongman in Bolivia accused of pedophilia and organizing mass starvation events – to his native country a year after he resigned from office. Morales, seeking an unconstitutional fourth term in office, resigned after the Organization of American States (OAS) revealed it had found evidence of significant fraud leading to his apparent victory in the October 2019 election. The interim president, Jeanine Áñez – a conservative senator who was the highest on the chain of command left in the country after Morales and most of his high-ranking cronies fled the country – organized an election this October won by Morales’ hand-picked successor, Luis Arce.
After his initial resignation, Morales fled to Mexico, where socialist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador greeted him.
“For us, the gesture of the noble President Andrés López Obrador, who saved the life of our big brother Evo Morales, is unforgettable,” Maduro said on Thursday. “They were putting a price on Evo’s head with thousands of dollars to capture and kill him. The same thing they did with [Muammar] Qaddafi in Libya or Salvador Allende in Chile.”
Maduro did not clarify who he meant by “they” or where he had seen any advertisement of a reward for Morales’ capture. The Áñez government did file a criminal complaint at The Hague against Morales for crimes against humanity.
Maduro also claimed that Áñez’s government had “announced massacres” of people in Bolivia without elaborating.
Maduro, as he has done with challenger Joe Biden this year, attempted to establish friendly relations with President Trump upon his election in 2016. As Trump has made combatting worldwide socialism a cornerstone of his foreign policy, Maduro largely failed to convince Trump’s administration not to sanction his regime or limit its ability to influence the region. By the end of Trump’s term, Maduro was accusing the president of faking a Chinese coronavirus infection and spreading misinformation claiming that Trump was using roving militias to terrorize American voters before the election.
Both Maduro and predecessor Hugo Chávez use roving militias known as colectivos to attack individuals who publicly criticize the regime.
Last week, Maduro said he would seek “decent, sincere, direct” dialogue with Biden if he is inaugurated president.
“I congratulate the American people on the presidential election,” Maduro wrote on Twitter. “I also congratulate president-elect Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on their victory. Venezuela, the homeland of the Liberator Simón Bolívar will always be open to dialogue and understanding with the people and the government of the United States.”
He later said during televised remarks in Venezuela that his regime “will work, hopefully, to resume decent, sincere, direct channels of dialogue between the future government of Joe Biden.”
Biden and Maduro met at the inauguration of impeached socialist Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff in 2015. On that occasion, Biden complimented Maduro’s hair, saying, “If I had your hair, I’d be president of the United States.”