Alwaght- President Nicolas Maduro urged Venezuelan armed forces to be on standby for potential US military action against the Latin American nation following a failed coup attempt earlier this week.
“Be ready to defend the homeland with weapons in your hands if one day the US empire dares to touch this territory, this sacred earth," Maduro said during a televised speech from a base in the northwestern Cojedes state on Saturday.
Maduro, standing alongside Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino and in the presence of more than 5,000 troops, underscored the continued military support for his legitimate government and dismissed the latest coup attempt by a number of rebel forces allied with Western-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido.
"I told the generals and admirals yesterday: loyalty, I want an active loyalty... I trust you, but keep your eyes open, a handful of traitors cannot tarnish the honor, the unity, the cohesion and the image of the armed forces," Maduro said.
A small group of armed troops accompanying Guaido clashed with soldiers at an anti-government rally in the capital Caracas early on Tuesday. Gunfire ensued and more than 100 people were wounded.
The administration of US President Donald Trump, which has recognized Guaido as the “interim president” of Venezuela, quickly backed the attempted putsch.
Later in the day, President Maduro declared that the coup attempt had been defeated.
The coup bid fell through as top leaders and high-ranking military officials reiterated their full support for the government, and 25 rebel troopers sought asylum at the Brazilian embassy in the capital.
Following the failure, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo renewed threats against Caracas and said on Wednesday that Washington may use military force to remove Maduro from power.
“The president [Trump] has been crystal clear and incredibly consistent,” Pompeo said. “Military action is possible."
US waging 'economic terrorism' against Venezuela
Edward Corrigan, international human rights lawyer, said in an interview with Press TV on Sunday that the United States has been waging an economic act of terrorism against the government in Caracas and the Venezuelan people through sanctions.
“The United States is essentially waging economic terrorism against Venezuela’s government and its people. They have seized 30 billion dollars worth of Venezuelan assets. They have imposed sanctions. They are going after the state-run companies.
"It really is a form of economic warfare, which punishes the people of Venezuela and it is even causing a lot of difficulties with regard to any access to healthcare and medicine. So, it is a form of economic terrorism,” Corrigan said.
Washington, he said, pursues the goal of destabilizing the Latin American country and a “regime change” in Venezuela despite Guiado’s lack of support from international institutions.
“It is a crisis made by the Americans in order to destabilize Venezuela and to bring about regime change,” Corrigan said.
Venezuela has been in political turmoil since Guaido declared himself the “interim president” late in January, receiving immediate recognition from Washington.
The Trump administration has since been mounting economic pressure on Caracas and repeatedly threatened to use military force to topple Maduro’s government.
Army chopper crashes near Caracas, kills all on board
On Saturday, a Venezuelan military helicopter crashed close to the capital, claiming the lives of all seven people on board.
The Venezuelan Defense Ministry said in a statement that the helicopter "went to ground" as it was flying from Caracas to the northwestern state of Cojedes, where Maduro was watching a series of army drills.
"I profoundly regret this incident and express my heartfelt condolences to their relatives and friends," Maduro wrote in a Twitter message.
The Venezuelan Defense Ministry said the authorities were investigating the cause of the crash.