CARACAS - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's socialist government said on Wednesday a move by the head of the Organization of American States (OAS) to censure the country for breaching democratic norms is an "imperialist" scheme to take the OPEC member's oil.
Under increasing international pressure and facing an internal opposition push for a referendum to recall Maduro, the government has reacted with fury to OAS chief Luis Almagro's request for an emergency meeting on Venezuela.
"The empire has decided that it's time to take our resources," Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez told reporters, casting Almagro as a tool of U.S. policy.
"We know that what's coming is an intervention... that's why we are alerting the international community."
Almagro, a former Uruguayan foreign minister, accuses Maduro of being a "petty dictator" who has disrupted democracy in Venezuela by sidelining the opposition-led congress and stuffing the Supreme Court with loyalists.
This week, Almagro requested a meeting of the OAS permanent council to begin proceedings in the 35-member hemispheric body that could lead to a vote on Venezuela's suspension.
Though Venezuela has lost heavyweight diplomatic support with Argentina and Brazil's recent moves to the right, it can still count on the loyalty of leftist governments in Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua.
It also has traditional support from small Caribbean and Central American nations who have benefited from preferential oil and fuel through the Petrocaribe agreement.
Foreign minister Rodriguez said Almagro, a 53-year-old lawyer, was obsessed with Venezuela.
"He has dedicated 36.4 percent of his Twitter account against Venezuela," she said, accusing him of following the instructions of U.S. President Barack Obama and the opposition leader of Venezuela's parliament Henry Ramos.
Venezuela's opposition leaders have welcomed international criticism of Maduro, but are trying to keep the focus on their drive for a recall referendum this year, saying his departure is the only way to resolve the country's problems.
The South American nation of 30 million people is suffering a deep recession, huge lines at shops, shortages of basics from milk to diapers, the world's highest inflation, and horrifying levels of violent crime.
Congress head Ramos mocked Rodriguez' blast against Almagro.
"The virulence of Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez is because no-one believes her fibs, nor Maduro's, either in Venezuela or abroad," he tweeted.