Argentine football legend Diego Maradona has pledged to be a “soldier… until death” for embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
In a passionate post on Facebook, the former soccer star declared “we are Chavistas” – a reference to President Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez.
Maradona wrote: “When Maduro orders, I am dressed as a soldier for a free Venezuela, to fight against the imperialism and those who want to take our flags, which is the most sacred thing we have.
“Viva Chavez!!! Viva Maduro!!! Long live the revolution!!!
“Viva the true Venezuelans, not those interested and involved with the political right.”
Maradona’s support comes in the face of a deepening political crisis in Venezuela.
His post prompted a fiery response from opposition leader Henrique Capriles.
Mr Capriles told an Argentine radio station: “If Maradona wants to come, I will personally go pick him up at the airport and show him around so he can see the situation in Venezuela.
“The so-called revolution is indefensible.”
Maradona, who led Argentina to the World Cup title in 1986, is well-known for supporting leftist politicians in Latin America.
He was a friend of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, whose face is tattooed on his leg.
President Maduro has lost numerous allies in the region – including Argentina and Brazil – in recent years.
He has defied international condemnation, including from the UK, America and the UN, and has presided over three-digit inflation and a shortage of food and medicine.
On Tuesday, Venezuela’s Supreme Court ordered the arrest and 15-month imprisonment of opposition mayor Ramon Muchacho.