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FILE PHOTO - French President Emmanuel Macron addresses a speech during the annual gathering of French Ambassadors at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Yoan Valat/Pool(reuters_tickers)
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela accused France on Wednesday of joining an "imperialist" campaign after President Emmanuel Macron portrayed the widely criticized socialist government as dictatorial.
Adding to criticism from Washington, the United Nations and major Latin American nations, Macron on Tuesday called President Nicolas Maduro's administration "a dictatorship trying to survive at the cost of unprecedented humanitarian distress."
Many countries are outraged at the Venezuelan government's overriding of the opposition-led congress, crackdown on protests, jailing of hundreds of foes and failure to allow the entry of foreign humanitarian aid to ease a severe economic crisis.
Authorities say local opposition leaders want to topple Maduro in a coup with U.S. support, but its new Constituent Assembly will guarantee peace.
"Comments like this are an attack on Venezuelan institutions and seem to form part of the permanent imperialist obsession with attacking our people," the government said in a communique responding to Macron.
"The French head-of-state's affirmations show a deep lack of knowledge of the reality of Venezuela, whose people live in complete peace," the statement said.
It added the assembly and upcoming state elections demonstrated the health of local democracy.
Leaders of the fractious opposition coalition boycotted the July 30 election of the assembly, branding it as an affront to democracy.
They call for an early presidential election, which Maduro would likely lose as his popularity has sunk along with an economy blighted by triple-digit inflation and food shortages.
Macron served in the Socialist government of former President Francois Hollande, though the former investment banker vowed to shake up the system he came from.
(Reporting by Andrew Cawthorne in Caracas, Sudip Kar-Gupta in Paris; Editing by Girish Gupta and W Simon)