Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro has called his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron a "wimp" and "hitman" after Macron met with leaders of Venezuela's right-wing opposition and threatened the nation with "new measures" if it doesn't allow "democratic elections."
"I don't care what Macron tells me: Macron is a wimp of (U.S. President Donald) Trump's policies against Venezuela," Maduro said in a press conference Thursday, arguing that only the "sovereign Venezuelan people" can judge the May 20 presidential elections.
Maduro also criticized Macron's timing, highlighting the social unrest that his policies have unleashed across France: "He is destroying France; Macron was placed in the presidency to act like a hitman for the financial oligarchy to destroy the social rights of the people of France."
French railway workers have threatened a general strike in opposition to sectoral reforms promoted by the executive branch, which they say aim to privatize the nation's railways. Students, retirees and public workers also joined protests last Thursday to oppose labor reforms.
On Wednesday, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza delivered a formal letter of complaint to the French ambassador to Caracas, Romain Nadal, regarding the meeting between Macron and Venezuela's opposition leaders.
Caracas considers the meeting with former Congress President Julio Borges; former Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, and Carlos Vecchio. Vecchio is the subject of an outstanding arrest warrant for arson, public instigation, and damage to public and private property as an 'unfriendly act.'
The Venezuelan elections were called early as part of the Peaceful Coexistence Agreement discussed between the government and the opposition in the Dominican Republic.
The agreement was signed by the government, but the opposition backtracked in the context of former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's South American tour.
Venezuela has invited several international bodies – including the United Nations – to observe the electoral process, but the opposition leaders of the Democratic Unity Roundtable have called for a boycott.