Venezuela’s President Maduro taking new title: party crasher

February 15, 2018
FILE - In this Oct. 17, 2017 file photo, Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a press conference at the Miraflores presidential palace, in Caracas, Venezuela. Maduro told international journalists Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018, he isn’t above crashing a party after his invitation was yanked to the Summit of the Americas, a meeting of regional leaders set for April in Peru. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos, File)

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Thursday he isn’t above crashing a party after his invitation was yanked to a regional meeting of Western Hemisphere leaders.

Maduro said he was determined to show up for the Summit of the Americas, an April gathering of regional leaders being held in Lima, Peru. President Donald Trump is also invited but hasn’t said whether he’ll attend.

“Rain, shine or lightning — by air, land or sea — I will get to the Summit of the Americas to tell the truth of this country,” Maduro declared at a news conference of international journalists. “Don’t you want to see me in Lima?”

Showing up could be awkward.

Peru’s foreign minister said Tuesday that Maduro was no longer welcome at the meeting, and that position was reiterated by another top official after the Venezuelan leader spoke.

“He cannot enter the land nor Peruvian airspace because he is not welcome,” said Mercedes Araoz, the chief of Peru’s Cabinet of Ministers.

She added that Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski had decided to send a letter to Venezuela criticizing acts by Maduro’s socialist government that have broken the rules of democracy.

“There is also a political voice of democratic parties, of the Peruvian people, that reject these authoritarian acts,” Araoz said.

Peru’s position on withdrawing the invitation to Maduro has been supported by a dozen Latin American countries.

They say the crisis-wracked country’s ruling party is plowing ahead with a snap presidential election stacked in Maduro’s favor by blocking many of the most popular opposition candidates. The United States has said it will reject the outcome of the election set for April 22.

Once one of Latin America’s wealthiest nations, Venezuela is gripped by a deepening economic and political crisis after nearly two decades of socialist rule.

Venezuela sits atop the world’s largest oil reserves, but crude production has plummeted under mismanagement and corruption inside the state-run oil company. Inflation is soaring as residents who find it increasingly difficult to find food and medicine are leaving — many crossing on foot into neighboring Colombia and Brazil.

Speaking to journalists at the Presidential Palace in Caracas, Maduro also deflected threats U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made in a recent tour of Latin America. Tillerson said that increasing sanctions against Venezuela aimed at breaking Maduro’s grip on power could include an embargo on oil.

Maduro said such a move would come at a greater political cost to Trump. If the U.S. decides not to buy Venezuela’s oil shipments, Maduro said, “We would go to other destinations.”

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