Venezuela's Maduro orders military drill after Trump comments

image source, Reuters
image caption, President Maduro railed against Donald Trump at a rally in Caracas

Venezuela's president has ordered the armed forces to hold exercises following US President Donald Trump comments about military intervention.

In a televised speech, Nicolás Maduro said Venezuelans had to be prepared to defend the country against "the imperialist boot".

The "civic-military" exercises are due to take place on 26-27 August.

Mr Trump warned last Friday that the US was looking at all options on Venezuela "including a possible military option".

His comments were condemned by other Latin American countries and by the Venezuelan opposition.

Venezuela faces a worsening political crisis and more than 120 people have been killed in anti-government protests since April.

image source, Reuters
image caption, Pro-government supporters took part in an anti-US rally in Caracas on Monday

"The land of Venezuela is sacred and should never be touched by the Yankee imperialist boot," Mr Maduro told government supporters following a rally in the capital Caracas.

"Let's prepare ourselves to defend the peace with tanks, planes and guns. Let the traitors to the country listen well, I have given the order, I have given the order to the superior chief of staff of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces to start the preparations for a civic-military exercise".

Thousands of Venezuelans heeded President Nicolas Maduro's call to take to the streets to show opposition to the US on Monday.

Many waved banners saying "Stop Trump".

In a further show of defiance, Venezuelan Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino appeared on television with battle-ready troops behind him at an army base.

He warned the US not to steal Venezuela's oil reserves and warned the opposition not to be ambivalent.

"This is a time for reflection, you are either a Venezuelan patriot, or pro-Yankee," he said.

image source, EPA
image caption, Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino made a defiant speech

The Venezuelan opposition rebuffed Mr Trump's comments, saying they played into the hands of Mr Maduro who has often alleged that the US wants to take over the country.

Mr Maduro has consistently argued that the US is trying to remove him to get hold of Venezuela's oil reserves - the largest in the world.

Earlier on Monday, US Vice-President Mike Pence said President Trump was showing "his resolve not to stand by and let a neighbour collapse into dictatorship".

Speaking in the Colombian city of Cartagena at the beginning of a regional tour, he said the US would use its "full economic and diplomatic weight to help restore democracy in Venezuela".

Mr Pence said the US would involve countries across the world to pressure the Venezuelan government to allow elections.

When asked by reporters whether pressure would include oil sanctions, Mr Pence said the US was looking at a "full range of economic sanctions".

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