Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a press conference with international media correspondents, at the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, on December 12, 2018. Image Credit: AFP

CARACAS, Venezuela: Socialist President Nicolas Maduro said Wednesday that he has uncovered an assassination plot that leads directly to the White House.

Venezuela’s leader repeated his frequent warning that a US invasion is imminent — this time giving some details but no evidence.

He accused US National Security Adviser John Bolton of overseeing a plot to replace him with a dictator. He alleged that Washington is using “dirty dollars, bled from the US empire” to train 734 mercenaries with in neighbouring Colombia to carry out the plot.

President Donald Trump early in his administration publicly mused about using the “military option” to remove Maduro from power, with advisers urging against the idea.

“I have no doubts that the US administration including John Bolton has plans for Venezuela,” Maduro said on state TV. “I also have absolute and unending faith in the Venezuela’s armed forces.”

Venezuela is in a historic economic crisis after two decades of socialist rule. The United States has imposed financial sanctions on Maduro and dozens of top officials to press for what it calls a return to democracy.

Widespread food shortages and devastating inflation have driven hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans to migrate into neighbouring Brazil, Colombia and other nations.

“We are facing a fact that affects all of our nations,” Alejandro Ordonez, Colombia’s ambassador to the Organization of American States, said Wednesday.

Maduro’s comments follow the arrival in Venezuela on Monday of two of Russian Tu-160 nuclear-capable bombers, drawing criticism from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“The Russian and Venezuelan people should see this for what it is: two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer,” Pompeo tweeted.

Maduro said the plot against him includes Colombia’s newly elected President Ivan Duque and Brazil’s far-right President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, who takes office in January.

Colombia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement rejecting Maduro’s claim, saying the president accused the neighbouring country of launching an “imaginary war.”

Maduro’s second term begins Jan. 10, following elections this year many foreign nations reject as illegitimate.

While taking a forceful tone, Maduro left open the option for dialogue with rival nations for a peaceful solution, calling on anybody in Trump’s administration to sit down for talks.

“Venezuela does not kneel down, does not surrender. Venezuela will continue in peace and democracy,” Maduro said. “Let the American empire know!”

— AP