Mar 19, 5:32 PM EDT

Venezuela seeking 10 million signatures in petition drive demanding end to US sanctions

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CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Supporters of President Nicolas Maduro launched a petition drive Thursday calling for an end to what they consider to be U.S. aggression against Venezuela.

The goal is to round up 10 million letters and signatures demanding that President Barack Obama repeal an order freezing the assets of Venezuelan officials accused of violating human rights during anti-government protests last year.

Maduro has called Obama's move an attempt to undermine socialist rule in Venezuela.

The Venezuelan leader was the first to sign the petition before government supporters began fanning out across the South American country to canvass for more.

"Obama is crazy," said German Pacheco, one of about 300 people who lined up at Plaza Bolivar in downtown Caracas to support the initiative. "All he wants to do is to take ownership of the country's oil wealth."

Opponents say Maduro is trying to distract attention from a deepening economic crisis and have denounced what they say is an attempt by educators to force children to draw anti-U.S. pictures as part of the government campaign. The government denies it's pressuring anyone into signing the petition.

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