Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his supporters have staged an "anti-imperialist" rally to protest against US sanctions on the country.

Several hundred people turned out for the rally on Thursday in central Caracas, the capital, with Maduro making a defiant speech.

"The terrorist threats we defeat, we have lured the monster out of its lair and now the big monster doesn't know what to do with its threats. The monster is now naked to the world," he said.

Thursday's rally came after Venezuela's top diplomat called US State Department Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson "petulant" and ill-mannered on Wednesday in response to her contention that sanctions were intended to change the government, not topple it.

The moves by President Barack Obama's administration have angered Maduro's socialist government, which has accused Washington of planning military attacks and wider Cuba-style trade sanctions. State TV has been playing old footage of the US invasions of Grenada and Panama.

Maduro has also asked parliament to grant him six-month special decree powers, given the "imperialist" threat, a move his detractors have condemned as a power-grab and an attempt to distract Venezuelans from shortages and recession.

The US government, which endorsed a short-lived 2002 coup against Maduro's predecessor Hugo Chavez, has repeatedly denied it is conspiring.

Bolivian support

A simultaneous rally was held in Bolivia on Thursday, whose President Evo Morales is an ally of Maduro.

"We know what follows sanctions. What follows is military occupation of a territory, deaths and it spreads. This threat will not stay in Venezuela and we're sure that the empire wants to expand to all of Latin America which is under construction towards socialism. This is why we're protesting here," said Valeria Silva, a congresswoman who attended the pro-Venezuela rally in Bolivia.

"We've come out to protest against the aggression our brother country, the Venezuelan republic, is suffering from. No government anywhere in the world harms the dignity of the people and this is what the United States is doing to the Venezuelan republic," said Jose Miranda Luizaga, a protester.

Source: Reuters