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South America

Civilians join Venezuela war games after US invasion threat

Military commanders have shown Venezuelan civilians how to use rocket launchers and anti-aircraft weaponry. Venezuela's government called on civilians to join reserve units to pre-empt a possible attack from US forces.

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Venezuela stages military drills

Venezuela on Sunday held its second day of nationwide military drills with civilians after calling on citizens to join reserve units to defend against a possible attack by US forces.

"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," said an announcement on state television broadcast early Saturday.

Read more: What is going on in Venezuela?

State television aired images of soldiers instructing civilians, both young and old, on how to operate rocket launchers, anti-aircraft battery and assault rifles. Military commanders offered fiery speeches at "anti-imperialist" rallies across the country.

Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro has often accused Washington of orchestrating a plan to invade Venezuela to steal its vast oil reserves. However, his claims were routinely rejected by the country's opposition movement as absurd until earlier this month.

'Military option'

On August 11, US President Donald Trump sent shockwaves through Venezuela's political establishment when he announced that "a military option is certainly something we could pursue" to end the South American nation's crisis.

Maduro has used Trump's remarks to reinforce support for his government, which has witnessed record- low approval ratings amid an ongoing political and economic crisis.

Read more: What is Venezuela's constituent assembly?

Tensions across Venezuela hit fever pitch earlier this month when a pro-government constituent assembly seized power from the opposition-held congress. However, anti-government protests have dwindled in size since the constituent assembly was established through a controversial electoral process in July.

More than 130 people have been killed and hundreds more injured and detained since April, when an order by the Supreme Court to strip the opposition-held National Assembly triggered mass anti-government demonstrations.

ls/rc (Reuters, dpa)

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