CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) – President Nicolás Maduro on Friday blasted a weekend visit to Venezuela by the former leaders of Mexico, Chile and Colombia, accusing them of inadvertently lending support to extremist groups trying to oust him from power.
Felipe Calderón of Mexico, Sebastián Piñera of Chile and Andres Pastrana of Colombia are supposed to participate in a pro-democracy symposium organized by Maduro's foes. They're also expected to try on Sunday to visit jailed opposition leader Leopoldo López, who has been imprisoned for nearly a year for leading protests against the socialist government.
Maduro, who is struggling to rebuild Venezuela's oil-dependent economy amid spiraling inflation and widespread shortages, told supporters that the three conservative former presidents would have "blood on their hands" for backing for his opponents. He also accused Calderón of having ties with Mexican drug traffickers and called Piñera a supporter of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.
Even while saying he respects free speech, Maduro urged the government's supporters to reject the presidents' visit as interference in Venezuela's internal affairs.
"You should be worried about the crisis in your countries and not stick your stinking noses into the affairs of the Venezuelan people," Maduro said at a rally commemorating the anniversary of the 1958 coup that ousted dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez.