SPARKS are flying in Venezuela with the president denounced as a traitor by the head of the Organisation of American States (OAS). Nicolas Maduro has also been branded “crazy as a goat” by Jose Mujica, the left-wing former president of Uruguay.

Earlier this week, Maduro called a state of emergency in his country in an attempt to win the “economic war” he claims right-wing forces and foreign powers are waging against him. He says his “enemies” are being manipulated by the US.

Maduro declared that OAS chief Luis Almagro was a traitor and agent of the CIA.

“He has been a traitor for a long time,” said Maduro. “At some point I will tell his story, I know his secrets. The Americans, the CIA, have played a master move using Almagro as their agent.”

Almagro has responded by accusing Maduro of being a “petty dictator”.

In a series of Twitter posts he wrote: “Nicolas Maduro I’m not a traitor either to my ideas or my principles BUT YOU ARE A TRAITOR to your people.

“You will NEVER be able to undo so much suffering, intimidation, misery and anguish you’ve created for your people”.

He added that Maduro would “NEVER be able to bring back to life the children who’ve died because of lack of medicine”.

The lack of medicine in the troubled country is severe, according to doctors.


Opposition parties in Venezuela have organised a petition signed by 1.85 million people calling for a referendum on whether the embattled president should stand down. Vice president Aristobulo Isturiz dismissed the signatures as “fraudulent”.

Foreign minister Delcy Rodriguez has also backed Maduro.

She told Almagro: “Every time you make a statement you express your hatred against Venezuela and its legitimate authorities. You are part of the imperialist detritus.

“You only repeat the scripted words which your imperialist masters dictate to you. You will never give orders to Venezuela.”

However, in Uruguay, Mujica said Maduro was as “crazy as a goat”.

“They’re all crazy in Venezuela, they call each other all sorts of things but they’re not going to fix anything this way,” he said.

Maduro previously considered Mujica as an ally.


There is no doubt that Venezuela is in deep trouble with inflation running at 180 per cent – the highest in the world – and predicted to go higher still.

Basic foods are scarce and there are frequent power cuts as the country cannot afford to import the goods it needs.

The crisis has been caused by the fall in oil prices as oil accounts for nearly all export revenue. Until now the profits were used to fund enlightened social policies which included providing homes to more than one million of the Venezuelan poor.

Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez, brought in price controls on staples such as milk, flour, rice, coffee and corn oil so that they were affordable for all.

However, producers claimed they were losing money as a result and some stopped production while others refused to supply the government shops with price-controlled goods, making Venezuela even more reliant on imports. To try to address the problem, Maduro said shoppers would have to be identified by their fingerprints so they could not buy more than they required to sell on the black market. He also partially closed the border with Colombia as he claimed nearly half of the subsidised foods was being smuggled out of Venezuela to be sold for huge profits.

The measures have not stopped the chronic shortages and long queues form daily outside the shops. In December the majority of seats in the National Assembly was won by opposition parties. They have since campaigned to remove Maduro from office long before his term ends in 2019.

The Assembly has rejected Maduro’s 60-day state of emergency which has granted the police and army extra powers. Maduro says the measures are required to combat right-wing forces plotting against him and has said he will not pay any attention to the National Assembly as he does not recognise it as legitimate.


A former bus driver, Maduro was born in 1962 to a family of moderate means. His father was involved in the labour movement and, rather than go to university, Maduro trained as a trades unionist in Cuba, then later rose through the ranks of the transit workers’ union after he became a bus driver in Caracas.

He campaigned for Chavez’s release from prison after an unsuccessful coup attempt in 1992 and helped rewrite the constitution that paved the way for Chavez to become president.

Maduro became foreign minister in the Chavez government and sought to lessen US influence in Latin America. He also cultivated friendly relations with Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Libya’s Muammar al-Qaddafi and and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

As Chavez battled cancer, Maduro’s profile grew and he became vice-president in 2012. At the same time his wife, Cilia Flores, was attorney general.

He accused “imperialist enemies” of poisoning Chavez when he died in 2013 then won election to the presidency in a tight contest against Henrique Capriles Radonski.

Middle-class voters took to the streets against Maduro but the poor backed him as did the police and army. Last December’s elections were seen as a referendum on his presidency with the centrist-conservative opposition sweeping to power.

It is against this background that a state of emergency has been called but whether it will do the increasingly beleaguered president much good is doubtful. The writing, for Maduro, seems to be on the wall.