"A gun for every militiaman!': Venezuela's president wants to beef up armed civilian groups"
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - Embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced plans Monday to expand the number of civilians involved in armed militias as tensions in the crisis-wracked South American nation continued to rise.
Maduro said he hopes to expand the number of civilians involved in the Bolivarian militias created by the late Hugo Chavez to 500,000, up from the current 100,000, and provide each member with a gun.
Speaking to thousands of militia members dressed in beige uniforms gathered in front of the presidential palace to mark the force’s seventh anniversary, Maduro said it is time for Venezuelans to decide if they are “with the homeland” or against it.
“Now is not the time to hesitate,” he said.
The announcement comes as Maduro’s opponents are gearing up for what they pledge will be the largest rally yet to press for elections and a host of other demands Wednesday. Supporters of the president have called for a counter demonstration the same day.
Maduro’s plans come after his Sunday-night order for the military to take the streets in advance of those Wednesday protests.
“From the first reveille (on Monday morning), from the first rooster crow, the Bolivarian National Armed Forces will be in the streets… saying, ‘Long live the Bolivarian revolution,’” Maduro said Sunday night in a televised address.
Thousands of Venezuelans have taken to the streets since the Supreme Court stripped the National Assembly of its last vestiges of power nearly three weeks ago, a decision it later partly reversed. At least five people have been killed, dozens hurt and more than 100 detained in the demonstrations.
The Maduro government has vowed to hold a counter mass gathering Wednesday in defense of the socialist movement started by Chavez.
Chavez created the civilian militias with the goal of training 1 million Venezuelans to assist the armed forces in the defense of his revolution from external and domestic attacks. Maduro told the militia Monday that vision remains relevant as Venezuela continues to face “imperialist aggression.”
“A gun for every militiaman!” he cried.
Maduro’s government claims foreign-backed opposition leaders are fomenting violence in an attempt to remove him from power. The Venezuelan president has denouncedopponents as “traitors” and said the new deployment was a sign of the military’s “honor, unity and revolutionary commitment.”
The opposition denies that assertion, saying it is Maduro himself who is responsible for Venezuela’s woes, including triple-digit inflation, rising crime and food shortages.
They also blame Maduro for ordering security forces to use tear gas against protesters and failing to stop pro-government armed groups from attacking demonstrators.
Former congresswoman Maria Corina Machado posted a photo of the militia gathering Monday on her Twitter account, calling it a, “pathetic, desperate and unconstitutional attempt by the regimen to intimidate Venezuelans.”
Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino vowed the army would display its “fighting spirit ahead of April 19” but said the deployment was “a call to peace.”
#May15th Three full months of protests and the only result was 42 dead and the resurgence of DICTATORSHIP in Venezuela!
Frustration has become our daily bread!!!
Yesterday 150 people were arrested without any reasonfor protesting peacefully. Their guarantees and rights were completely violated in a country where the people supposedly have the legitimate POWER! A complete FARCE!
Every day we witness how such a beautiful country is sinking into poverty by the interests of a few, those who once swore to uphold the guarantees of a people who blindly supported, are now bathe in fresh money and tease the needy.
Please help us spreading this! Thank you!
A shout out for our great warrior and journalist: Donaldo Barros
Hundreds of Venezuelans marched in Caracas for the ‘resurrection of democracy’ in a new day of protests against the government of Nicolas Maduro.
Oil-rich Venezuela has been rocked by two months of deadly protests, with at least 41 people killed since a wave of demonstrations against the leftist government of Nicolas Maduro broke out in early February.
Caracas, Venezuela: Supporters of President Nicolas Maduro and the Bolivarian Revolution march in support of the government and to call for peace after the recent deadly violence by the U.S.-backed opposition, February 15, 2014.