CARACAS, VENEZUELA - Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro has ordered his army to conduct a "comprehensive" drill late this month in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s threat last week of a possible military action in the South American country.
"We must prepare ourselves so that no one dares to touch a single piece of sacred land of Venezuela," that it’s "never touched by an imperialist Yankee boot," Maduro said in an address broadcast Monday on national television and radio.
Venezuela’s military maneuvers are scheduled for August 26 and 27.
On Friday, Trump said military action was among a range of options being considered in Venezuela, devastated by a political and economic crisis. “The people are suffering and they are dying,” the president told reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. “We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option if necessary.”
U.S. President Mike Pence, on a weeklong tour of Latin America, struck a more temperate tone Monday.
“We are absolutely determined to bring the full measure of American economic and diplomatic power to bear until we see democracy restored in Venezuela,” he said at a news conference in Cartegena, Colombia, where he’d met with Venezuelan families who’d left their homeland.
At least 120 people have died in political violence engulfing Venezuela since April.
Candidates file for regional elections
Monday also was the final day on which candidates could file for Venezuela’s long-delayed gubernatorial elections in all 23 states. These had been scheduled for December, but the National Constituent Assembly – the new, all-powerful legislative body charged with rewriting the constitution – on Saturday moved up the date to October 10.
Many are skeptical that the long-delayed elections actually will take place. Opposition parties debated for days whether to participate, but the majority fielded candidates.
Maduro said registration by opposition-party candidates “gives a vote of confidence” to the election process.