President Donald Trump called on Russia "to get out" of Venezuela while meeting Fabiana Rosales, the wife of interim leader Juan Guaido. In turn, Russia said its ties with Venezuela should be of no concern to others.
US President Donald Trump has met with Fabiana Rosales, wife of Venezuela's interim President Juan Guaido, as Venezuelans endured a third day of a nearly nationwide blackout.
"Today, in Venezuela it is freedom or dictatorship, it is life or death," Rosales said at the White House on Wednesday. "It is the children who are paying the price."
The US president addressed this week's arrival of Russian military personnel in Venezuela, saying "Russia has to get out." Asked how he would make Russian forces leave, Trump said, "We'll see, all options are open."
Russia: Nobody tells Americans where to go
On Thursday, Russia responded by saying it was "in no way interfering in Venezuela's internal affairs."
"We do not believe that our bilateral relations with any country need concern third parties," Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow. "We also believe that third parties should follow our example and allow Venezuelans to determine their destiny on their own."
The spokesman also pointed out that the US is present "in many corners of the world, and nobody tells them where they should or should not be."
Trump: 'Everything is broken'
President Nicolas Maduro remains entrenched in power, and Trump's Wednesday meeting with Rosales in Washington is part of the opposition's efforts to solicit international support, with Guaido unable to travel freely.
The ongoing electricity blackout is the second outage of that scale to paralyze the country this month, leaving public offices and schools shuttered.
The government has provided no official information on how much of the country is affected but has blamed the blackouts on US "cybernetic" attacks and opposition "sabotage" and "terrorism." Experts estimate the power outages are costing the Venezuelan economy some $200 million (€178 million) per day.
Trump blasted Maduro, saying "everything is broken" in Venezuela, citing a precipitous fall in oil exports and the chronic power and water shortages.
"They have plenty of pressure right now... Other than military, you cannot get more pressure than they have," Trump said about the Maduro government.
Prior to the US visit, Rosales traveled to Peru and Chile, where she met with the presidents of both countries and spoke at universities about Venezuela's humanitarian crisis.
The 26-year-old Rosales met Guaido at a youth rally for the opposition party Voluntad Popular. She has gained national prominence in recent months, appearing regularly at her husband's side during rallies and speeches.
jcg, dj/jm (AFP, AP, Reuters)