Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro claimed to have over 3 million armed socialist militia members at his disposal and ordered his defense minister to give out 13,000 military-grade firearms to “workers” in anticipation of an alleged attack by Colombia, the Spanish newspaper ABC reported on Monday.
Maduro reportedly spent much of his weekend touting the alleged socialist “militias” ready to attack his enemies, an indication, some say, that he does not trust the nation’s armed forces alone to keep him in power.
Maduro ceased being the legitimate president of Venezuela in January, after the nation’s legislature found the May 2018 election he claimed legitimacy from to be neither free nor fair. Maduro had blocked non-socialist and communist candidates from the ballot, triggering a boycott that resulted in the lowest voter turnout in Venezuelan history. According to constitutional protocol, the National Assembly replaced Maduro with an interim president, Juan Guaidó.
The Venezuelan armed forces refused to acknowledge Guaidó and continue to back Maduro, making it impossible for Guaidó to exercise his legal power as commander-in-chief.
In addition to the armed forces, which extensive evidence suggests Maduro also uses for drug trafficking, Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chávez rely on the use of colectivos, armed socialist gangs used to terrorize political dissidents. As private gun ownership is illegal in Venezuela, only criminals, Maduro’s armed forces, and Maduro’s colectivos are armed.
In addition to the colectivos, multiple reports throughout the years have linked Maduro to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN), Marxist narco-terrorist organizations operating in Colombia for decades.
“We want every factory to be a barracks,” Maduro announced during an event in southern Venezuela on Friday. “I have ordered the workers and combatants to receive 13,000 firearms.”
Maduro claimed that arming “workers” was necessary because of plans he claimed the Venezuelan military revealed on the part of conservative Colombian President Iván Duque to invade the country.
“The better prepared we are, the better armed we are, to defend the country against American imperialism and the Colombian oligarchy, we can guarantee peace, production, and progress to our beloved nation,” Maduro reportedly said.
Maduro routinely accuses conservative presidents in the Western Hemisphere – Duque, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, and American President Donald Trump especially – of various conspiracies to invade and colonize Venezuela, never offering proof of his suspicions. He ordered the military to engage in exercises specifically designed to destroy the Colombian military in September.
Maduro also went out of his way to accuse the “fascist right and the Empire [the United States]” of launching an “electric war on the people.”
“We are defeating them, but they keep on sabotaging the electric system of our Venezuelan people,” Maduro insisted, according to remarks compiled by state media.
Following Maduro’s announcement, his Minister of the Interior Néstor Reverol announced that nearly 7,000 guerrilla members would be deployed nationwide to “guarantee the security” of the national electric grid after a near-total collapse in March. Nationwide outages – affecting key infrastructure such as hospitals and police stations – continue to plague the nation, a phenomenon attributable to Chávez, and later Maduro, replacing the expert scientists running the power grids with socialist lackeys with little to no experience in doing so. Maduro blamed the outages on an American conspiracy.
“We are activating within the plan to stabilize the National Electric System, 695 units of the Bolivarian militia, we are talking about 6,950 militants who will be activated far and wide,” Reverol announced. He did not elaborate on what, exactly, they would be doing to protect the power grid, other than a side remark on them being equipped to clear shrubbery around electric substations.
The Argentine news outlet Infobae also caught Maduro this weekend boasting of a socialist militia independent of the armed forces totaling 3,295,335 people and stating that he had launched a campaign to arm then with 330,000 firearms in the last two weeks. Maduro had confirmed last month that these weapons would come from the armed forces, something Infobae described as “a show of lack of confidence in the military” given that, if Maduro could fully trust in Venezuela’s soldiers, he would not have to build another army.
Infobae also noted that only the state can legally possess firearms, meaning Maduro’s move to create socialist guerrillas is patently illegal.
That has not stopped Maduro from exacerbating Venezuela’s prodigious street violence problem in the past. In 2017, he announced that he would hand out 400,000 firearms to socialist supporters in anticipation of the fraudulent 2018 presidential election. That same year, he organized “civilian-military exercises” to give supporters a small taste of boot camp and effectively prepare them for war.