'You won't get rid of me!' Venezuela's Maduro tells foes
CARACAS: Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro insisted on Thursday his opponents would fail in a new push to oust him this year and end 17 years of socialist rule in the OPEC nation.
Having won control of the National Assembly in a vote at the end of 2015, the energized opposition alliance has launched a multi-pronged campaign to remove Maduro via street rallies, a recall referendum and a constitutional amendment.
The first protest march is planned for Saturday in Caracas.
Speaking on state TV, the 53-year-old president mocked his foes as divided and corrupt, and insisted he was the man to steer Venezuela out of its current economic crisis.
"We are here to work undisturbed in the great objectives of the economic recovery," he said at a meeting with businessmen and senior government officials. "And from there, they will not get rid of me, nor should they get rid of anyone."
Critics blame Maduro for Venezuela's deep recession, triple-digit inflation and depressing shortages of basics, saying he has stuck stubbornly to the statist economic policies of his predecessor Hugo Chavez when reforms were needed.
But Maduro points to the global oil price collapse as the main source of Venezuela's woes. The nation depends on crude for more than 90 percent of its export revenues.
The price of Venezuela's oil has, at least, crept up in recent days to about $31 per barrel, Maduro said, but revenues were minimal compared to the days of $100-plus crude.
With investors fretting over Venezuela's ability to pay foreign debt obligations later this year, Maduro said the government was seeking assistance from major lender and ally China.
"We've reached a big agreement with China," he said, without giving any more details. Beijing has lent some $50 billion since 2007 to Venezuela, which repays with oil shipments.
Earlier, Miguel Perez, the vice president for economy, told Reuters a delegation had taken a proposal to China last week seeking better financing terms.
"They took a proposal, I cannot reveal it today," he said. "When you have a creditor and partner, you seek to improve the conditions of the relationship."