CARACAS. — Venezuelan Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez on Saturday announced the start of a nationwide military drill, aimed at keeping the country battle ready in case of a foreign invasion. Speaking from Macarao National Park, in the western state of Miranda, Padrino said “from this observation post (and) accompanied by all of my fellow soldiers . . . today we officially begin this drill.”
Some 200 000 military troops and 900 000 “combatants” are participating in the two-day drill, according to the army.
Padrino said that through the exercise, “we want to say to the world that there is an armed force in Venezuela and a people who are willing to give all of themselves to defend our country.”
US President Donald Trump recently said he would not rule out a “military option” in Venezuela to oust President Nicolas Maduro from power.
Also on Saturday, Venezuelans took to the streets to protest economic sanctions imposed by the US government.
Supporters of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and the ruling socialist party rallied in the capital city of Caracas, marching from the central Plaza Venezuela to Paseo Los Proceres, a street honouring heroes of national independence in Latin American countries.
Protesters rejected the latest “US government aggression,” the leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), Dario Vivas, said in a televised statement.
The executive order signed by US President Donald Trump “prohibits dealings in new debt and equity issued by the government of Venezuela and its state oil company” and also prohibits dividend payments to the South American country’s government.
In announcing the new sanctions on Friday, the White House said these measures are “carefully calibrated to deny the Maduro dictatorship a critical source of financing to maintain its illegitimate rule.” — Xinhua.