Thousands marched Wednesday in Caracas in support of President Nicolas Maduro, two days after the United States imposed the toughest sanctions yet on Venezuela.
National Assembly speaker Diosdado Cabello, considered the country’s second most powerful leader, called the latest sanctions “a new aggression amongst the madness of genocides that govern the United States.”
Others at Wednesday’s rally accused President Donald Trump of wanting to “get his hands” on Venezuela.
Reporters in Caracas said most of those marching were government workers and militia members.
The Trump administration has banned all U.S. companies and individuals from doing business with the Maduro government as part of U.S. pressure to drive him from power.
The U.S. was the first of more than 50 countries to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuelan president.
Guaido declared himself Venezuelan leader in January, using his constitutional authority as the National Assembly president to declare Maduro’s
re-election last year illegitimate because of fraud.
Russia, China, Iran and Cuba are Maduro’s top defenders.
Guaido’s popular uprising against Maduro earlier this year appears to have lost much of its steam, but the U.S. is still determined to see Maduro go and says military action is still on the table.
The collapse of world energy prices, corruption and failed socialist policies have wrecked the oil-rich Venezuelan economy. Basic food staples and fuel are in severely short supply, and millions of Venezuelans have fled the country.
Maduro has refused to consider early elections and has used violence against anti-government protesters.