The two-day maneuvers, dubbed the Bolivarian Shield 2020 Operation, kicked off on Saturday with the deployment of armed vehicles, missile launchers, anti-aircraft batteries, and radars on the streets of the capital, Caracas, and other cities throughout the country.
The Venezuelan Defense Ministry said more than 2.3 million people, including soldiers and militia forces, joined the drills ordered by Maduro.
In Caracas, several hundred troops and militia members participated in the maneuvers aimed at blocking what was called “invaders” from entering the city.
The military drills were the first ones held after a new law in Venezuela recently approved the inclusion of national militias in the country’s defensive corps.
The civilian militia members were dressed in red shirts and held combat drills on the streets after residents were safely evacuated.
“I answered the call to help prepare for our defense because my country, my homeland, is under threat from the US empire,” said militia member Pablo Antonio Reyes, a 63-year-old electronics technician.
“The purpose of this exercise is to keep us prepared,” said another militia member, Carmen Ferrer, 50.
During a press briefing with the international media at the Venezuelan presidential palace on Friday, Maduro said that the exercises were aimed at fending off “terrorist aggression” by Washington and its allies in the Latin American region.
The US has been carrying out a pressure campaign against Maduro’s government and urged the armed forces to turn against him. The administration of President Donald Trump has also imposed several rounds of sanctions against the oil-rich South American country aimed at ousting Maduro and replacing him with opposition figure Juan Guaido.
Venezuela’s puppet Guaido defends US sanctions against Maduro Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido has been slammed for defending US sanctions against the country.
Guaido is considered responsible for causing political crisis in Venezuela when he unilaterally declared himself “interim president” of the country in January last year, rejecting the outcome of the May 2018 election, which Maduro had won. Guaido also later launched an abortive coup against the elected government.
On Saturday, Guaido called on the armed forces to abandon what he claimed was Maduro’s failed leadership and help him. His pleas to the military have failed in the past.