Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has announced the end of diplomatic relations with Panama because of a “conspiracy” against him.
Maduro announced the move in a speech marking the anniversary of Venezuela’s late socialist leader Hugo Chavez.
A year after Chavez succumbed to cancer, Maduro paid an emotional tribute to the former leader.
“Never before has there existed a defender that gave the poor and working people their rights. That gave them education, culture, work; that gave them dignity; that gave them conscience. Hugo Chavez has passed to history as the defender of the poor of Venezuela and the defender of the poor in America,” said the president.
But Maduro is facing the biggest challenge to his rule: violent anti-government demonstrations that have led to 18 deaths since February.
Protesters gathered in Caracas on Wednesday. High crime rates and food shortages are behind much of the anger.