A week after President Trump met with Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó at the White House and reiterated his support to remove President Nicolás Maduro from power, Venezuela's armed forces and civilian militias staged a massive war drill over the weekend, reported Telesur.
The meeting between Trump and Guaidó on Feb 5 was nothing short of historic, suggests that the US could support a future military intervention to remove the Maduro regime.
The Trump administration has been tightening political, diplomatic, and economic screws on Maduro, but despite a crashed economy and hyperinflation, the regime continues to survive.
Back in 2017, Trump said he is "not going to rule out a military option" to confront the Venezuelan president.
Tensions in 2019 ran high after Guaido's failed attempt to overthrow the regime.
Last month, Guaido was denied entry into the country's National Assembly for his re-election as head of Congress, only to be reelected for a second term as speaker of parliament hours later.
The country continues to descend into chaos, and it appears that Maduro understands military intervention by Washington, or at least maybe a proxy force of some sort, could be imminent.
Maduro's response to this lingering threat was to launch one of the most massive war drills the country has seen in years this weekend, called Bolivarian Shield 2020.
The objected of the exercise is to strengthen national defenses against armed aggressions:
"We started the Bolivarian Shield 2020 Exercise, with the deployment of our glorious FANB (Bolivarian National Armed Forces) in a Civic Military Union, with more than 2 million 300 thousand combatants mobilized to defend territorial integrity, independence and national sovereignty. We will preserve the Peace!" Maduro said.
Venezuelan Minister of Defense Vladimir Padrino tweeted that Bolivarian Shield 2020 Exercise will be conducted through the weekend and across the country. It will help Maduro prepare and face future threats of "aggression" from Washington.
¿Cómo negarle al pueblo su derecho a defender a la Patria? Vaya que acto de justicia la plena incorporación de la Milicia a la Fuerza Armada Nacional Bolivariana, hacen ustedes indestructible el #EscudoBolivariano2020 para proteger a nuestra amada Venezuela. pic.twitter.com/Qp1c6jHrWy— Vladimir Padrino L. (@vladimirpadrino) February 15, 2020
Padrino tweeted another video of the drills that shows an assortment of weapons being used, from small arms to surface to air missiles.
¡Febrero Rebelde! Hoy en desarrollo el segundo día del Ejercicio Militar #EscudoBolivariano2020. Tremendo balance hasta ahora, hemos conseguido, junto a la Milicia, aumentar el nivel de cohesión de la FANB. Felicitaciones a toda FANB. #EnDefensaDeLaPatria. ¡Venceremos! pic.twitter.com/i68hoWVa8h— Vladimir Padrino L. (@vladimirpadrino) February 16, 2020
AFP’s Yuri Cortez tweets pictures of an infantry battalion securing streets in Caracas.
Member of 311 mechanized infantry battalion Liberator Simon Bolivar points their Ak 103 rifles next to a 120mm mortar during military exercises for the "Bolivarian Shield 2020 Operation' in #Caracas #photography #photojournalism #EscudoBolivariano2020 #Venezuela #FANB #15Feb pic.twitter.com/5JvCXy3i91— Yuri Cortez (@YuriYurisky) February 15, 2020
Ahead of this weekend's mass military exercises across the country, CNW tweeted pictures of heavy military equipment being deployed.
AMX 13 F3 self propelled artillery being transported on autopista 1 in Maracaibo pic.twitter.com/QyD7KWPSPi— CNW (@ConflictsW) February 11, 2020
A quick video related to the BUK at La Carlota airbase. Video showing the radar was active today pic.twitter.com/onnQPOtXGd— CNW (@ConflictsW) February 11, 2020
Somewhere in Táchira ( I will geolocate at a later date) an S-125 air defence convoy including 2 loaders with 2 missiles each and the command and control vehicles, launchers possibly at the back of the convoy pic.twitter.com/um0D8J6kba— CNW (@ConflictsW) February 12, 2020
From the above post, the Full S-125 convoy in Táchira near San Cristobal including 2 launchers. Interesting to note is the motorbikes escorting the convoy with milicia holding Iglas pic.twitter.com/luolx5G889— CNW (@ConflictsW) February 12, 2020
More photos of the BUK at La Carlota, as well as a ZU-23. A full BUK squad is deployed including radars, command and control and 2 launchers. pic.twitter.com/UmueJZLvJ5— CNW (@ConflictsW) February 12, 2020
Venezuelan BUK with 2 launchers still located on the side of the Caracas- La Guaira Highway next to Caracas Maiquetia airport pic.twitter.com/yjBVbqPPLe— CNW (@ConflictsW) February 14, 2020
Mi-35 from the 712 attack helicopter batallón in Barinas pic.twitter.com/tC8b3TZWDh— CNW (@ConflictsW) February 14, 2020
S-125 and low blow radar deployed next to the Puente general rafael Urdaneta in Maracaibo pic.twitter.com/cEXfOag5f9— CNW (@ConflictsW) February 14, 2020
VN-18s live firing in Bahia de Turiamo, Aragua pic.twitter.com/0Ce9IqTeCY— CNW (@ConflictsW) February 15, 2020
S-125 convoy arriving at the Alcasa aluminium factory in Guayana city. Same location as the above photos pic.twitter.com/raqoZn8bUR— CNW (@ConflictsW) February 16, 2020
So, could a military intervention in Venezuela to rid Maduro of power be the next big distraction from a recession-prone US economy?