Maduro accuses US of using Lima Group to instigate coup in Venezuela

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ISTANBUL
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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accused the United States of using the Lima Group of American countries to instigate a coup against his government, one day before being sworn in for a second term widely regarded as illegitimate.

"I cannot lie to you, civilian and military companions... a coup d'etat is under way under the orders of Washington, from the Lima cartel against the constitutional government I preside over," the national news agency AVN quoted Maduro as saying.

Thirteen Lima Group members – 12 Latin American countries and Canada – said Maduro's new term would be illegitimate because the 2018 election that gave him a second term was not free or fair and that they would not recognize his leadership.

"We shall not allow even a single slip. Whatever his name, whatever post he holds, whoever tries to promote a coup plan should know that he will face justice, the constitution and the civilian-military powers," Maduro added. The president had already accused the U.S. and neighboring Colombia of preparing a coup. Bogota has denied the allegations, but Washington has not commented on them recently.

Venezuela "has alerted very clearly to the governments of the Cartel of Lima that, if they do not rectify their position (...) we will take the most crude and energetic measures that can be taken in diplomacy," said Maduro, using a pejorative name for the group widely used by ruling Socialist Party leaders. He did not provide details on what measures he could take.

Maduro called Peru's government "ridiculous" for announcing that it plans to prohibit Maduro and other high-ranking Venezuelan officials from entering its territory.

The May 2018 election was widely boycotted by the opposition, which described it as a farce that was rigged in his favor. Maduro insists the election was fair and that the opposition did not participate because it knew it would lose. He accuses foreign governments, including Latin American nations, of seeking to overthrow him.

Following the election, he created a Constituent Assembly made up of regime loyalists to replace the elected National Assembly that he had lost control of in 2016. While the National Assembly still sits, all of its decisions are annulled by the Supreme Court, which is also made up of Maduro allies.

The National Assembly nevertheless has declared that it remains the only legitimate governing institution in Venezuela, and that it would instill a "transitional government" ahead of new elections. However, Maduro has the backing not just of the Supreme Court and Constituent Assembly, but also the armed forces, which issued a statement on Tuesday declaring its "unrestricted support and absolute loyalty" to him.

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