Justin Trudeau’s government has imposed more sanctions on the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who it blames for the country’s deteriorating political and economic situation. Canada, the United States and about 50 other countries support Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who says he is the interim president and that Maduro must resign. In a bid to secure his position as president, Nicolás Maduro has formed a civilian militia of armed members of the public.
He has recently called for a million more people to join this militia by the end of the year.
The call to expand the militia, which answers directly to Maduro, comes as opposition leader Juan Guaidó seeks to persuade the Venezuelan military to abandon the president.
But, so far the military has stayed loyal to Maduro.
The citizen’s militia is seen as an attempt to shield himself further as signs that the military may not be fully loyal.
Maduro has since used alarming rhetoric to praise the civilian militia.
During a rally in the capital Caracas Maduro praised his militia for its readiness to “defend, with arms in hand, the peace, sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence and the life of our homeland”.
He also called on them to get involved in agriculture, as Venezuela continues to struggle with a spiralling economic crisis which has left people struggling to afford food.
Addressing the rank and file of the militia members, Maduro said: “With your rifles on your shoulders, be ready to defend the fatherland and dig the furrow to plant the seeds to produce food for the community, for the people.“
Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaidó both claim to be the constitutional President of Venezuela.
Shortly after Mr Guaidó declared himself interim leader, his assets were frozen and the Supreme Court, dominated by government loyalists, placed a travel ban on him.
But the 35-year-old opposition leader defied that ban last month when he toured Latin American countries to garner support.
Mr Guaidó has continued to call for President Maduro to step aside and has urged the security forces, which have mainly been loyal to the government, to switch sides.