Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has instructed the military to prepare to “shoulder arms,” in case of a US invasion, a minister said. “We have received a preparatory order from President Nicolas Maduro to shoulder arms and defend our country,” Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino said on Thursday.
The minister spoke during a ceremony in northern Atagua state to mobilize a special rapid response force, Xinhua news agency reported.
The order comes after US President Donald Trump said last week he would not rule out a “military option” to oust Venezuela’s president and ruling socialist party from power.
On the heels of that statement, Trump’s Vice President Mike Pence embarked on a four-nation tour of Latin America to drum up support for a more aggressive push against Maduro and his administration.
The presidents of Colombia, Argentina and Chile, all of whom met separately with Pence, rejected the possibility of military intervention in South America.
Padrino objected to Pence’s description of Venezuela as a “failed state” that has strayed from democratic principles, pointing to the fact that opposition political parties have gone to the offices of the National Electoral Council to register their candidates for upcoming regional elections in October.
Maduro has also called for civic-military drills next week to ensure forces are ready in case of an attack.