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‘I Am Just Another Soldier’: Maduro Trains to Fight U.S. Troops in Venezuela

Venezuela bars self-declared president Guaido from leaving country
Venezuelan Presidency/AFP/Marcelo GARCIA
FRANCES MARTEL

Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro once again posted videos of himself Wednesday appearing to train with his armed forces to prepare for an allegedly incoming U.S. invasion, this time participating in what appear to be cardiovascular exercises and training with the national air force.

Maduro has managed to retain control of much of the military since the nation’s legislature, the National Assembly, deposed him and replaced him with current President Juan Guaidó, as mandated by the Venezuelan constitution. The Air Force, however, has been among the least loyal. Last week, one of the highest ranking soldiers to defect to Guaidó, Air Force General Francisco Esteban Yánez Rodríguez posted a video on social media claiming “90 percent of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces are not with the dictator” and urging more to defect.

Maduro’s visit to air force training appears to be an attempt to dispel the perception of abandonment that Yánez’s video created.

“I am just another soldier in our dignified [Bolivarian National Armed Forces], ready to give my life, if necessary, to defend every palm of our sacred Fatherland,” Maduro wrote on Twitter, posting the video of his exercises. The video begins focused on Maduro, who appears to lift an arm while marching out of rhythm with the rest of the soldiers, but rapidly turns away from Maduro’s form to focus on the troops.

In another video posted Wednesday, Maduro greets an armed forces brigade, whose leader tells the dictator they are “ready for combat.”

“Guard up all the time,” Maduro tells them as he shakes their hands, putting his fists up in a boxing stance. “Protect the air, the sea, the land … these are the pilots of [Simón] Bolívar, conquerers of the air.

Maduro continued posting videos to his social media account Thursday of the Venezuelan armed forces, claiming that they are prepared for any incoming invasion. While most videos do not single out a particular enemy of his regime, he and his cronies have repeatedly accused the United States of plotting to assassinate him and invade the country.

In October, for example, senior socialist regime leader Diosdado Cabello proclaimed on his television program Con el Mazo Dando (“Hitting with the Mallet”) that “Our Armed Forces, I believe, are prepared to resist those attacks of the North American imperialism and of the European Union, because they have a great conscience.”

Maduro also held “civilian-military” exercises in 2017 to prepare for an incoming U.S. invasion. State media broadcast images of untrained, older civilian men attempting to crawl in sand, swing on large ropes, and jog through a tire obstacle course, claiming that over one million civilians underwent the “training.”

This week, facing an incoming shipment of food and medical aid for the Venezuelan people from Washington, Maduro claimed accepting the aid would be to allow a U.S. military invasion of Venezuela.

“Nobody is going to enter Venezuela, not even a single invading soldier. We do not fear the threats of the American empire,” he said. “We tell Donald Trump as a people of peace that we do not fear him at all. Trump’s statement is criminal and threatening, very regrettable that the Venezuelan right applauds him with a gringo flag. ”

Maduro has so far, at press time, succeeded in blocking the humanitarian aid shipments, currently in the border town of Cúcuta, Colombia. Soldiers loyal to Maduro used boxcars and gasoline trailers to block the bridge that connects Cúcuta to Venezuela’s Táchira state, leaving the hundreds stranded in Venezuela waiting for food empty-handed.

Maduro began posting videos of himself with the military in the aftermath of President Juan Guaidó taking office on January 23. Maduro claims to be president of Venezuela because he “won” a presidential election in May 2018 in which he banned opposition candidates from running and over 80 percent of the country abstained from voting. The Venezuelan constitution requires citizens to immediately replace a president who violates human rights or breaks with the institution of representative democracy. Following that mandate, the National Assembly swore Guaidó in as president last month.

Guaidó has promised any soldier that defects from Maduro amnesty from being tried for any human rights violations they may have committed while following Maduro’s orders, as per a National Assembly law intended to strip Maduro of control of the military. Maduro has responded with a series of videos participating in military exercises, the first one showing Maduro attempting to jog with troops in training.

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