Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has said he cannot rule out the possibility of civil war as pressure mounts on him to stand down.
In a TV interview, he warned that US President Donald Trump would leave the White House “stained with blood” if he intervened in the crisis.
He also defiantly rejected the EU’s Sunday deadline to call snap elections.
Opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself interim president and won the backing of the US and others.
Mr Guaidó said on Sunday he would build an international coalition to deliver humanitarian aid to Venezuelans. But Mr Maduro has accused him of organising a coup.
What did Mr Maduro say?
In the interview with Spanish television programme Salvados, broadcast on Sunday, Mr Maduro was asked if the crisis in Venezuela could result in civil war.
“Today no-one could answer that question with certainty,” he said.
“Everything depends on the level of madness and aggressiveness of the northern empire (the US) and its Western allies.
“We ask that nobody intervenes in our internal affairs… and we prepare ourselves to defend our country.”
President Trump has told US broadcaster CBS that the use of military force remains “an option”.
But Mr Maduro warned the US leader he risked a repeat of the Vietnam war if he intervened.
“Stop. Stop. Donald Trump! You are making mistakes that are going to stain your hands with blood and you are going to leave the presidency stained with blood,” he said.
“Let’s respect each other, or is it that you are going to repeat a Vietnam in Latin America?”
Sunday saw the expiry of a deadline set by several European countries – including France, Britain, Germany and Spain – for Mr Maduro to call early presidential elections. They said that they would recognise Mr Guaidó as interim president if no such pledge was forthcoming.
But Mr Maduro responded: “We don’t accept ultimatums from anyone. It’s like if I told the European Union: ‘I give you seven days to recognise the Republic of Catalonia, and if you don’t, we are going to take measures’.
“No, international politics can’t be based on ultimatums. That was the era of empires and colonies.”