Maduro urges Venezuelan army to prepare for US military action

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Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro attends a rally in support of the government and to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the arrival to the presidency of the late President Hugo Chavez in Caracas, Venezuela on February 2, 2019. (Reuters)

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro urged his troops Saturday to “be ready” for potential U.S. military action, after the opposition leader Juan Guido’s call for his supporters to take to the streets for more protests to topple country’s elected leader remained largely unanswered.

The small turnout for the Saturday marches, with participants in the hundreds, not the thousands, is another setback for opposition leader Guaido, following a failed military uprising earlier in the week. Maduro on Saturday instructed the military “to be ready to defend the homeland with weapons in your hands if one day the U.S. empire dares to touch this territory, this sacred earth.”

Underscoring the continued military support for his socialist regime, Maduro delivered his televised address from a base in northwestern Cojedes state, where he appeared alongside his defense minister, Vladimir Padrino, and in the presence of more than 5,000 troops.

Maduro has thwarted the latest coup attempt against his government as Guido’s call on the military appeared not to have triggered a wider revolt. The military has so far supported the country’s democratically elected Maduro and refused to back Guaido, who declared himself interim president in January and has backing from dozens of countries, including most of Latin America and the U.S. Maduro has called Guaido a U.S-backed “puppet” who seeks to oust him in a coup.

For the third time this year, the U.S’ attempt to remove Venezuela’s democratically elected President Nicolas Maduro from power has turned out to be a bust. After an uprising in Venezuela quickly fizzled out, President Maduro blamed the U.S. government for orchestrating a coup attempt against his country. Guaido’s cause gained renewed support on Saturday from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who issued a video address to the Venezuelan people, telling them: “The time for transition is now.” “You can hold your institutions, your military and their leaders to the highest standards and demand a return to democracy,” Pompeo said in the message. “The U.S. stands firmly with you in your quest.”

Venezuela has been rocked by protests since Jan. 10 when President Maduro was sworn in for a second term following a vote boycott by the opposition. Tensions climbed on Jan. 23 when Juan Guaido declared himself interim president, but Maduro has so far refused calls to step down.

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