CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan troops will remain stationed along the country’s borders to prevent territorial violations, the defense minister said on Tuesday, ahead of the opposition’s plan to bring in humanitarian aid to alleviate an economic crisis.
President Nicolas Maduro has rejected offers of foreign food and medicine, denying there are widespread shortages and accusing opposition leader Juan Guaido of using aid to undermine his government in a U.S.-orchestrated bid to oust him.
Guaido has said that aid will enter Venezuela from neighboring countries by land and sea on Saturday. The United States has sent tons of aid to Colombia’s border with Venezuela, but Maduro has refused to let it in.
In comments broadcast on state TV, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino said the opposition would have to pass over “our dead bodies” to impose a new government. Guaido, who has invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency, denounces Maduro as illegitimate and has received backing from some 50 countries.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday warned members of Venezuela’s military who remain loyal to Maduro that they would “find no safe harbor, no easy exit and no way out.”
“You’ll lose everything,” Trump told a crowd of Venezuelan and Cuban immigrants in Miami.
Guaido has beseeched the armed forces to disavow Maduro, promising them future amnesty, though only a few high-ranking military officials have so far done so.
Padrino said it was unacceptable for the military to receive threats from Trump, and said officers and soldiers remained “obedient and subordinate” to Maduro.
“They will never accept orders from any foreign government … they will remain deployed and alert along the borders, as our commander in chief has ordered, to avoid any violations of our territory’s integrity,” Padrino said.
“Those that attempt to be president here in Venezuela … will have to pass over our dead bodies,” he said, referring to Guaido.
Maduro, who won a second term last year in an election that critics denounced as a sham, retains the backing of Russia and China and control of Venezuelan state institutions.
(Reporting by Vivian Sequera and Brian Ellsworth; Writing by Angus Berwick; Editing by Andrea Ricci)