Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has launched 10 days of military exercises over new U.S. sanctions placed on his nation earlier last week.
The Associated Press reported that 100,000 members of Venezuela’s armed forces began conducting exercises Saturday across the Socialist nation. Displays of force thus far have included armored trucks, fighter planes and shoulder-fired missiles.
President Obama drew Maduro’s ire by declaring the South American country a national security threat last Monday. He also placed tougher sanctions on Venezuelan officials for alleged human rights violations there.
“Venezuelan officials past and present who violate the human rights of Venezuelan citizens and engaged in acts of public corruption will not be welcome here,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement last Monday. “And we now have the tools to block their assets and their use of U.S. financial systems.”
The Obama administration targeted seven former Venezuelan military, intelligence and law enforcement officials with the new restrictions. All the individuals sanctioned allegedly committed violence against anti-government protesters in Venezuela last year.
Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez launched Saturday’s display of force in Caracas at Fort Tiuna, the nation’s largest military installation. He said the sanctions were “an imminent danger” to Venezuela’s security.
Maduro hailed Venezuela’s military as “the best guarantee of peace” in a radio address Saturday night. He vowed to protect Venezuela’s sovereignty from the “insolent boots of imperialism” in the speech.
The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) has shown little support for Obama’s latest measures. On Saturday, the 12-nation coalition rejected his assessment that Caracas threatens the U.S.
The White House’s new sanctions will freeze U.S. assets of targeted individuals and ban their travel to American shores. The Obama administration has often clashed with Maduro – and his predecessor Hugo Chavez – over Venezuela’s human rights record.