Shortly after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro declared a state of emergency, he ordered the military to undertake exercises to counter what he called threats from foreign forces. The socialist leader accused political opponents of joining hands with foreign forces to plot against his administration.
Addressing a rally in capital Caracas's Ibarra Square, he said opposition groups are "orchestrating foreign military intervention in Venezuela".
"We're going to tell imperialism and the international right that the people are present, with their farm instruments in one hand and a gun in the other... to defend this sacred land," said Maduro, according to Deutsche Welle. "The oligarchy's plan is to disturb the peace so they can justify foreign intervention in Venezuela. I'm not an extremist for saying this, but they're extremists for wanting to carry this out."
As he was declaring a nationwide state of emergency, anti-Maduro protesters took to the streets demanding a vote to dislodge him from power. Maduro defended his move saying it is necessary to battle foreign influence on the country.
Maduro's socialist administration is currently facing acute problems chiefly because of the battered economy and low oil prices. The Venezuelan public, struggling to get essential supplies, are striving hard to cope with shortage of food and increasing incidents of crime.
The domestic opposition has slammed Maduro for desperately trying to arm-twist anyone who opposes him. The US has also warned the Latin American country, which has the world's largest oil reserves, is heading for a collapse.
Speaking to a small group of reporters on condition of anonymity, a senior US intelligence official said: "The goal now is to mitigate the crisis that is unfolding. You can hear the ice cracking," according to the Chicago Tribune.