Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez

Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez

CARACAS – Venezuela’s top diplomat called a senior US official “petulant” and ill-mannered on Wednesday in response to her contention that sanctions were intended to change the government, not topple it. Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez was responding to State Department Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson’s comments explaining a US declaration that Venezuela is a security threat and its sanctioning of seven officials earlier this week.

“In a rude and petulant manner, Mrs. Jacobson tells us what to do,” Rodriguez told local TV.

“I know her very well because I have seen her personally, her way of walking, chewing. You need manners to deal with people and with countries.”

The moves by President Barack Obama’s administration have infuriated President Nicolas Maduro’s government, which has accused Washington of planning military attacks and wider Cuba-style trade sanctions. State TV has been playing old footage of the US invasions of Grenada and Panama.

Maduro has also asked parliament to grant him six-month special decree powers, given the “imperialist” threat, a move foes have condemned as a power-grab and attempt to distract Venezuelans from shortages and recession.

The US government, which endorsed a short-lived 2002 coup against Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez, has repeatedly denied it is conspiring.

“The goal of these sanctions is to persuade the government of Venezuela to change its ways, not to remove that government,” the State Department’s Jacobson tweeted.

Washington’s measures have also wrongfooted Venezuela’s opposition which, while agreeing with US accusations of rights abuses and corruption, do not want to be associated with outside interference.

With Venezuelans increasingly fed up with soaring prices and shortages from milk to car parts, the opposition had hoped for a protest vote in its favour at upcoming parliamentary elections.

Venezuela’s allies are supportive, with Cuba mocking the US moves.

“We will respond to this grotesque, illegal, shameless, unheard of and unjustified meddling by the United States,” added Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, announcing a meeting on the issue next week of foreign ministers of regional bloc UNASUR, which has generally backed Venezuela’s stance. – Reuters