Venezuela braces for 'mother of all protests'

He told thousands of militia members gathered in front of the presidential palace to mark the force's seventh anniversary that it was time for Venezuelans to decide if they are "with the homeland" or against it.

The announcement comes as Maduro's opponents are gearing up for what they pledge will be the largest rally yet to press for elections and a host of other demands Wednesday.

Venezuelan opposition activists march during a protest against President Nicolas Maduro's government, in Caracas on April 15, 2017.

Maduro said that security forces had arrested an "armed commando group sent by the opposition in order to attack the mobilization called by the right-wing for Wednesday to generate violence and deaths in the country".

Speaking on state television on Tuesday evening, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro fired back at the Trump administration, accusing it of promoting regime change in the South American nation.

"From the first reveille, from the first rooster crow, the Bolivarian National Armed Forces will be in the streets. saying, 'Long live the Bolivarian Revolution, '" he said in a televised address.

Venezuela has been rocked by unrest since March 30, when Maduro's camp moved to consolidate its control with a Supreme Court decision taking over the power of the opposition-majority legislature.

Maduro's opponents are vowing to stage the "mother of all protests" calling for his ouster, after two weeks of violent demonstrations that have left five people dead and dozens wounded. The court - stacked with appointees of Maduro and his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez - reversed its position in the wake of domestic and worldwide outcries about an attempted power grab.

He called for the militia to be in "permanent training" and "permanent deployment" to defend Venezuela against "any imperialist aggression" - a thinly veiled reference to the United States.

FILE - Opposition marchers protest the Maduro government in Caracas April 10, 2017.

Opposition protesters have vandalized various areas in Caracas in recent days causing economic damage estimated at around 50 billion bolivars, President Maduro announced Sunday. Maduro said the new plan, dubbed "Plan Zamora" after 19th Century Venezuelan warlord Ezequiel Zamora, was presented by him by the Armed Forces high command and he chose to implement it on the eve of the April 19th march because there was "a coup d' etat" afoot, one, he said, "being directed from Washington". On Monday, Maduro promised to hand out half a million rifles to the milita - a pro-government armed corps that is not provided for in the Venezuelan Constitution - so that they could defend the Bolivarian Revolution.

  • Leroy Wright