Soldiers carried shoulder fired missiles, drove armored trucks and flew fighter jets on Saturday for the first day of 10 days of Venezuelan military exercises the president of the country says are necessary to protect against a treat from the United States.
As close to 100,000 members of the country’s armed forces started conducting the exercises, the government of Venezuela received support from other nations in South America, which criticized the United States for the sanctions imposed on the leaders of the South American nation.
Earlier this past week, Washington imposed sanctions on a number of officials from Venezuela who are accused of violations of human rights and declared Venezuela a threat to the national security of the U.S., which is nothing more than a formality that precedes the declaration of most sanctions.
Nicolas Maduro the President of Venezuela said he would be taking steps to protect his people from the hostile government of the U.S.
Vladimir Padrino Lopez, the Defense Minister began the military exercises in Caracas at Fort Tiuna, the largest installation of the military in the country.
He said the sanctions by the U.S. constitute imminent danger to the country and Venezuela’s armed forces have to be ready to ensure the independence of the country.
On Saturday night, in a broadcast on national television, Maduro praised all the skills shown during the first of the armed forces exercises.
The U.S. denied the claims of Maduro that it was looking to undermine the government and urged that his government focus on the domestic problems gripping Venezuela.
On Saturday, the South American 12-nation bloc UNASUR rejected the classification by the U.S. of Venezuela as a threat. The representatives met in private in Ecuador reviewing the situation about Venezuela and the recent crackdown by the U.S.
Regional leaders from Ecuador, Bolivia and Cuba had already been critical of the actions this past week of Washington, which even some of the opposition groups in Venezuela had called inappropriate.
A UNASUR delegation was sent last week to assess the Venezuelan situation including its severe problems with the economy and political divisions. The major outcome of that visit was promising to help alleviate shortages of food in the country.