Maduro capitalises on Trump’s military threat to stage “anti-imperialist” protest

Caracas –   Venezuela’s leader Nicolas Maduro is capitalising on local outrage by holding an “anti-imperialist’’ protest on Monday over President Donald Trump’s military threat.

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While U.S Vice President Mike Pence travels to Latin America tamping down concern over his boss’s threat of possible military action in Venezuela.

The march started with a late rally and was expected to end at the presidential palace where Maduro would address the crowd, while conciliatory Pence continued a tour of the region that began in Colombia.

In Cartagena, Pence backpedaled from Trump’s statement last week that a “military option’’ was on the table for Venezuela.

The vice president said the U.S. administration was confident that a peaceful solution could be found to the crisis in oil-rich but economically ailing Venezuela, where more than 120 had died in anti-Maduro protests since April.

Trump’s comments may be a political lifeline for the unpopular Maduro.

Like his predecessor and mentor, the late Hugo Chavez, Maduro said the country must be unified by socialism in order to stand against U.S invasion aimed at stealing Venezuela’s vast oil resources.

The march started at a downtown square, where hundreds of “Chavistas’’ moved to the rhythms of a local folk band playing on a makeshift stage. “Venezuela and Latin America united against the empire’’ a marcher shouted.

Television interrupted coverage of the march to broadcast an address by the Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino.

With dozens of battle-ready troops behind him at an army base, including one soldier with a shoulder-fired missile launcher pointed skyward, Padrino warned that the United States wants to steal Venezuela’s oil reserves.

Venezuela’s opposition coalition rejected foreign threats to the country, without specifically identifying Trump or the United States while criticising Maduro’s close relationship with Communist-run Cuba.

Padrino criticised the opposition’s position as ambivalent.

“This is a time of reflection, you are either a Venezuelan patriot, or pro-Yankee,’’ Padrino said.

In July, Venezuela elected a “constituent assembly’’ with sweeping powers, including the writing of a new constitution and allowing Maduro to rule by decree.

In 2015, the opposition won control of Congress, but its decisions have been nullified by Maduro’s loyalist at the Supreme Court.

Maduro and his allies said that the constituent assembly is Venezuela’s only hope for securing peace and prosperity.

The opposition boycotted the assembly, calling it a step toward dictatorship as the nation suffered from triple-digit inflation and acute shortages of food and medicine. (NAN)

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