Maduro asks Pope for help in face of Trump’s military threat

Isabel Cocker/The Santiago Times Staff

CARACAS – Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has requested Pope Francis to intercede diplomatically on his behalf in order to prevent Donald Trump from sending U.S. troops into the South American country.

On Tuesday, in the speech at a press conference in Caracas, the socialist president asked: “May the Pope help us to mutually-respectful dialogue, to the truth. May the Pope help us to prevent Trump launching his troops to invade Venezuela. I ask the Pope for help against the military threat of the United States”.

Maduro attacked Trump for declaring this month that he was thinking of invading Venezuela and, according to La Nación, maintained that the U.S. leader and his threats did not scare him.

Nevertheless, Maduro did admit that “now, unfortunately, we are at the worst point”, regarding the diplomatic relationship between the two countries. It has been two years since the embassies between the two powers closed.

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In response to the perceived threat from the U.S., Emol reports that Maduro has planned military exercises for this weekend. With the help of the Constituent Assembly, he is also considering a range of methods to defend the country from the commercial and financial blockade which he accused Trump of preparing.

At the same press conference, the Venezuelan leader reiterated his friendship with Russia, calling President Putin “a peaceful man”. He confirmed that he would be meeting Putin in Russia in the near future, to discuss military strategy in the event of a U.S. invasion.

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Russia, through the state-run company Rosneft, has large investments in the oil-rich South American country and has provided aid to combat what they call the “unacceptable” American threat. According to Emol, Russia has already provided Venezuela with Sukhoi Su-30 fighter planes, surface-to-air missiles and rifles, among other battle equipment.

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On Friday, journalists were invited to a shooting range at Caracas’ main military base to watch as troops taught a handful of civilian government supporters how to fire assault weapons. The event, attended by military officials from China, Belarus and Russia, was a prelude to military exercises Maduro called for this weekend as a deterrent to any U.S. military intervention.