By Nestor Rojas Mavares (dpa)
HAVANA TIMES – Venezuela’s military forces began a series of exercises today in response to US President Donald Trump’s threats to use military force to topple the Maduro government. In this first day of maneuvers a clash occurred on the border with Colombia that left six dead.
Venezuelan army chief Gen. Jesus Suarez Chourio said six persons he called “generators of violence” apparently Colombians, were killed in the southwestern region of Táchira on the border with Colombia. He added that two Venezuelan officers were wounded in the skirmish.
The military chief said the incident occurred during a search and patrol operation to protect the border with Colombia.
“In this patrol we found members of a group that generates violence, called ‘Los Rastrojos’. A confrontation ensued resulting in six people killed and the capture of a citizen, who is contributing valuable information to clarify this event and reach the connections they have In Venezuela, “he said.
The confrontation occurred amid the deployment of forces in the 2017 Bolivarian Sovereignty military exercises, which President Nicolás Maduro called in response to Trump’s threat to consider the military option in the Venezuelan case and to the financial sanctions imposed on Friday against the strategic sector Oil industry of Venezuela.
Maduro had warned the military to be careful of “provocations” that might come from Colombia, with the purpose of generating a “conflagration” that could cause external intervention.
The maneuvers will continue tomorrow with the participation of some 200,000 military personnel, in addition to more than half a million members of militias integrated by civilians.
In a speech to the trained soldiers, Padrino explained the purpose of the practices. “It is to tell the whole world, with our pacifist vocation, with our need for peace, with a message of political dialogue, but also with our firm and irrevocable decision to defend our country,” he said.
“We want to tell the world that here there is an Armed Forces and a people willing to give everything to defend these valleys, these mountains and rivers, our country,” added the military chief.
Padrino reiterated the government’s rejection of the sanctions taken by the “empire,” in allusion to the United States.
As part of the exercises, Interior Minister General Néstor Reverol participated in a ceremony with 600 troops on motorcycles equipped with portable antiaircraft units, bought from Russia, that will patrol with 600 other militia in the streets of central Caracas.
In another action, more than 1,200 troops accompanied by civilians marched several kilometers in the rain from the east of Caracas to the promenade Los Próceres in the southwest of the city, to reach the military facilities of the area, which include an esplanade where Military displays will be held.
On Friday, Trump signed an executive order that includes a ban on the US financial system from buying bonds and debt from the Venezuelan state and state oil company PDVSA. It also prevents banks from granting new loans and restricts the negotiation of some bonds held by the Venezuelan State, as well as the payment of dividends for them.
“Haven’t people been saying there is a humanitarian crisis in Venezuela? But the empire responds, to ‘help’ in the crisis, blocking our beloved Venezuela financially. To a people supposedly in crisis, their answer is more aggression,” said Padrino.