Venezuela has launched two days of war-games in the face of threats made by US President Donald Trump about engaging in military action against the country.
On Saturday, some 200,000 troops and fighter jets and tanks, belonging to the National Bolivarian Armed Forces (FANB), along with 700,000 reserves and civil militia members took part in the drills, which were officially kicked off by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
“The people and the FANB are defending territory and sovereignty,” said Maduro.
Trump, who has promised to “continue to take strong and swift actions against the architects of authoritarianism in Venezuela,” said earlier this month that Washington has “many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option if necessary.”
In footage released by Venezuelan TV, young and old Venezuelans were shown arriving at military reserve registration centers after an announcement was made calling for people to take part in the drills.
“Against the belligerent threats of the United States, all Venezuelans between the ages of 18 and 60 are required to contribute to the integral defense of the nation,” the state television announced before the drills began.
Political tensions in Venezuela rose recently after Caracas announced plans to establish a Constituent Assembly to take over the opposition-controlled parliament and rewrite the constitution. The opposition saw the move as an overt attempt by President Maduro to accumulate power.
Protests erupted on the streets, and clashes led to the death of at least 120 people from the two sides.
Washington has imposed economic sanctions directly targeting Maduro, accusing him of “dictatorship.” Maduro says the US is seeking to stifle oil exports through sanctions and a “naval blockade” on the Latin American country. He also said the US and its allies in the region are fomenting instability to bring down his government.