Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro called on his nation’s military leaders Tuesday to prepare for war against the U.S. days after the Trump administration banned Venezuelan officials from entering the nation.

“We have been shamelessly threatened by the most criminal empire that ever existed and we have the obligation to prepare ourselves to guarantee peace,” said Maduro, who wore a green uniform and a military hat as he spoke with his army top brass during a military exercise involving tanks and missiles. “We need to have rifles, missiles and well-oiled tanks at the ready….to defend every inch of the territory if needs be,” he added.

The Trump administration has taken a hard stance against Maduro’s regime by banning money lending to Venezuela’s government or its state oil company PDVSA, and passing sanctions against Maduro and his top officials.

Maduro referenced the sanctions during his speech at the military base. As he spoke, Russian military planes flew in the sky as part of the training exercise, Agence France-Presse reported.

“The future of humanity cannot be the world of illegal sanctions, of economic persecution,” Maduro said.

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Bottom line: President Trump isn’t going to invade Venezuela and has no plans to do so. This is the attempt of an authoritarian leader to unify his people at a time when his failed economic policies are causing massive nationwide protests, violence, and unrest. It is a well-worn tactic of tyrants and dictators. Then again, Russia — which has stepped up relations with Venezuela as a means of gaining a foothold in America’s backyard and to sow anti-American discontent, has suggested the U.S. could invade as well, feeding into Maduro’s narrative.

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