Maduro accuses Trump of seeking his assassination

Maduro accuses Trump of seeking his assassination

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro accused President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: 'I will not let Iran have nuclear weapons' Rocket attack hits Baghdad's Green Zone amid escalating tensions: reports Buttigieg on Trump tweets: 'I don't care' MORE of ordering his assassination in an interview with Russia's state-run news agency.

Maduro claimed Trump had asked the right-wing government of Colombia to carry out his killing, an argument critics of the Venezuelan leader said was a smokescreen designed to build support at home amid protests of his government and food and medicine shortages. 

“Donald Trump has without doubt given an order to kill me and has told the government of Colombia and the Colombian mafia to kill me,” Maduro told Moscow’s RIA news agency, according to Reuters.

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Washington has recognized Juan Guaidó, the president of Venezuela's National Assembly, as Venezuela’s interim president after Maduro won a new presidential term in elections that have been disputed by his opponents and much of the international community.

Canada, the Organization of American States, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Colombia have all also recognized Guaidó as Venezuela's leader. 

Maduro has vowed to hold on to power, and Russia is his biggest international supporter. Russia has called on Guaidó to drop his calls for a snap election and enter into mediation with Maduro, according to Reuters.

The White House announced Monday it was implementing new sanctions against Venezuela's state-owned oil company in an attempt to ramp up pressure on Maduro.

There have also been questions about whether the U.S. would entertain military intervention in Venezuela, something magnified after John BoltonJohn Robert BoltonTrump: 'I will not let Iran have nuclear weapons' Rocket attack hits Baghdad's Green Zone amid escalating tensions: reports Trump: War would 'be the official end of Iran' MORE, Trump's national security adviser, was photographed with a notepad reading "5,000 troops to Colombia."

At a minimum, observers suggested Bolton must have been seeking to send a signal by being photographed with that notepad message.

Maduro has stepped up the pressure against Guaidó. His attorney general has opened an investigation into what was described as Guaidó's anti-government activities. Maduro also asked the Supreme Court, which is stacked with Maduro loyalists, to freeze Guaidó's bank accounts and prevent him from leaving the country. 

Maduro also retains control over the military, a key component of the conflict that could help prolong his grip on power.

Bolton reiterated Tuesday that “there will be serious consequences for those who attempt to subvert democracy and harm Guaidó” 

The leadership struggle has led to street demonstrations, with the State Department saying Tuesday that Americans should avoid traveling to Venezuela.