Venezuela conducted a series of large scale military exercises Saturday, aimed at testing the country's ability to resist a foreign invasion.
Defense minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez described the drills as preparation for any “imperial aggression.”
“The participation of the population is intended to be an expression of the civil-military (alliance), in the face of the U.S. government's declaration that considered Venezuela an unusual threat,” the minister stated.
Along with regular forces, Venezuela's voluntary militias have been invited to join in the exercises, along with visiting Russian troops.
One of the first operations to kick off was a naval drill that took place near Caracas.
On the ground, teleSUR correspondent Angel Cedeno said at least 100 personnel were involved in the drill.
“There will also be participating Russian military (troops), that will be deployed in these exercises,” Cedeno stated.
In total, around 100,000 people are expected to take part in the drills, including 20,000 civilians. Operations are taking place across the country, for the next 10 days.
Venezuela Isn't Iraq
Ahead of the drills, President Nicolas Maduro stated his country “has the force to defend itself.”
“Venezuela must be prepared, because Venezuela can never become like Libya or Iraq,” he said.
Earlier this week, Venezuela's government accused the United States of plotting an “economic blockade,” arguing recent sanctions against several top officials in Caracas may be just the tip of the iceberg of future U.S. intervention.
“They are considering a financial and commercial blockade, an economic blockade, and the entire country (of Venezuela) should know this,” said Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez during an interview with broadcaster Venevision.
Rodriguez said the latest round of U.S. sanctions pose a major threat to “all Venezuelans,” dismissing claims from Washington that the sanctions will only affect a small group of government officials.
The U.S. Department of State has officially denied allegations the U.S. government is seeking to overthrow Maduro, though on Thursday the head of U.S. Southern Command hinted in the future there could be “some arrangements to change leadership.”