Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Monday ordered the military to conduct exercises after US President Donald Trump’s threat of a possible armed intervention in the crisis-stricken country.
Maduro told a crowd of supporters in Caracas that he had organized a round of military drills for August 26-27 in response to the threat.
“I have given the order to the armed forces’ joint chiefs of staff to start preparations for a national civil-military exercise for the integrated armed defense of the Venezuelan nation,” he said.
He vowed to defend his country “with tanks, planes and missiles” as the crowd chanted “Yankee go home!”
Trump said on Friday that the US was mulling a range of options against Venezuela, “including a possible military option if necessary.”
His words have bolstered Caracas’s oft-repeated claim that Washington has designs to grab control of its proven oil reserves, the largest in the world.
Defense Minister General Vladimir Padrino called Trump’s comments “crazy,” saying it showed America had “dropped its mask” in terms of wanting to attack his country.
In a speech, he warned that Washington wanted to steal the OPEC nation’s oil reserves.
As Maduro told supporters in Caracas to prepare for an “imperialist” invasion, US Vice President Mike Pence sought to calm concerns in the region about Trump’s talk, promising a peaceful solution to Venezuela’s “collapse into dictatorship.”
Pence said the US was confident that a peaceful solution could be found to the country’s political and economic crises.
The country last month, at Maduro’s behest, elected a “constituent assembly” with sweeping powers including the
capacity to rewrite the constitution. Maduro says the assembly will bring peace to the country.
His adversaries boycotted the election, calling it a power grab meant to keep the ruling Socialist Party in power and insisting it will do nothing to tame soaring inflation or resolve food and medicine shortages.