Socialist Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro announced late Monday that he would order “surprise” war games to plan for attacks against the United States on a “permanent” basis following the conclusion of the latest exercises.
Maduro, who ceased being the legitimate head of state of Venezuela in January 2019, regularly claims that Washington is planning a military invasion against him, or that it has orchestrated various alleged assassination attempts to remove him from power. Maduro had ordered the organizing of “Bolivarian Shield 2020” exercises last week to prepare for alleged upcoming “terrorism” on the part of the United States.
“I hereby announce that the ‘Bolivarian Shield 2020’ military exercises will remain active and we will surprise,” Maduro said on Monday, in public remarks meant to commemorate the end of the war games. Maduro spoke alongside senior military leaders while wearing combat fatigues. “From today on, we will not announce the date of the military exercises nor the region.”
The broadcast lasted about an hour and included several impassioned interjections by Venezuelan socialist soldiers pledging loyalty to Maduro.
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) February 18, 2020
The purpose of surprise exercises, Maduro claimed, was to maintain combat readiness, denying soldiers time to prepare to show their abilities. They “could start at midnight” or any time of day, he added, and “this will be permanent so that we can have happiness and peace and security. With peace and security, anything is possible.”
The Venezuelan outlet Runrunes noted that Maduro suggested that hundreds of thousands of members of Venezuela’s military could be forced to participate in exercises at any given moment from now on.
Maduro made clear in the broadcast that the reason for seemingly random exercises was to protect from President Donald Trump.
“We don’t want war, we don’t want terrorism, we don’t want violence, but we are not afraid of fighting with arms in hand to defend peace, territorial integrity, and the future of Venezuela, let the world know,” Maduro rambled. “When Donald Trump two weeks ago said he was going to crush Venezuela, and he tells [Ecuadorian President] Lenin Moreno that he is going to take care of Venezuela, they convinced him it would be easy.”
Maduro appeared to be referring to remarks in Trump’s State of the Union Address in which he vowed to eliminate tyranny in the country. Speaking while acknowledging the presence of Venezuela’s actual president, Juan Guaidó, Trump said, “Maduro is an illegitimate ruler, a tyrant who brutalizes his people. But Maduro’s grip of tyranny will be smashed and broken.”
Trump also met with Moreno in Washington last week, stating that he would not attack Venezuela, but that he would help its people.
“Yeah, we’ll be looking at and talking about Venezuela. And it’s always close to our heart. We have millions of people from Venezuela living in the United States very successfully,” Trump said. “They love our country and they love Venezuela. We’ll take care of the Venezuelan people.”
“They have mercenaries ready in Venezuela and we will all surrender, all of us … that is what they convinced him of,” Maduro continued, without specifying the mysterious “they” who convinced Trump of this, allegedly. “That’s why he says ‘we are going to crush and break Venezuela’ and tells Lenin Moreno, ‘don’t worry about Venezuela, I’ll take care of it.”
¡Máxima Integración de la Capacidad Defensiva del País! Nunca antes Venezuela tuvo una fuerza militar tan poderosa en su patriotismo, su moral y su capacidad armada para defender el territorio. ¡Leales Siempre, Traidores Nunca! pic.twitter.com/fRtf394Cqk
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) February 18, 2020
Maduro’s henchmen joined the chorus of supporting military action against America in statements following the dictator’s remarks.
“Anything that happens, we will always be at the forefront with comrade President Nicolás Madro, next to the people, struggling for our independence and sovereignty,” Diosdado Cabello, Maduro’s second-in-command, said on Monday. Cabello is widely considered the head of the Cartel de los Soles, an intercontinental cocaine trafficking operation run out of the Venezuelan military, and lost a defamation lawsuit against the Wall Street Journal for publishing that information. Cabello is a career military leader and repeatedly stated on Monday that he would never negotiate with the United States or abandon Maduro. Cabello also spoke on behalf of U.S.-sanctioned drug criminal Tareck El Aissami, who Maduro put in charge of the nation’s key oil and gold industries.
On state television, socialist party councilman William Fariñas insisted that the constant surprise war games were “a reasonable response for the country before the attacks perpetrated by the government of Donald Trump against Venezuela.” Fariñas claimed that the original exercises forced 3 million soldiers to partake, allegedly the largest in history.
The Trump administration imposed new sanctions against the Maduro regime on Tuesday, this time against the Venezuelan subsidiary of Rosneft, the Russian energy company. U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela Elliot Abrams told reporters on Tuesday that Rosneft is “now handling about 70 percent of Venezuelan oil,” helping the Maduro regime access global markets and fund its repression of the Venezuelan people.