Maduro expanding civilian militia in Venezuela

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President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela said Monday he has approved a plan to expand the number of militia members in the country from 100,000 to 500,000.
“I will guarantee the permanent training of the militias, their permanent deployment, their ability to handle the system of weapons, so they could defend their neighborhoods, their territory, their state,” Maduro said during a speech marking the seventh anniversary of the formation of the Bolivarian Militia. “To defend the coasts, rivers, jungles and the cities and towns of Venezuela from any imperialist intervention,” he added..
The new measure allows the government to equip each new member of the Bolivarian militia with a rifle and comes as a new wave of social and political unrest sweeps across the Latin American nation and, according to the El Nacional newspaper, has resulted in six deaths and 538 arrests.
Recent protests were sparked by an attempt to dissolve the National Assembly stacked with Maduro’s opponents. Adding fuel to the fire was the government’s move earlier this month to bar the president’s main opponent, Henrique Capriles, from holding office for 15 years.
Protests are expected to continue Wednesday as massive nationwide demonstrations are planned by government opponents.
The militias are to be deployed to different defense zones in the country’s 24 states.
Maduro warned of an alleged attempt by opposition coalition parties of the Democratic Unity Table (MUD) to promote a “fierce offensive” against his government.
The Bolivarian militias were created in 2008 by the popular President Hugo Chavez to help the armed forces with internal and external threats.

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