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VENEZUELA vowed to fend off any armed attack after a huge shipment of weapons believed to be from Miami and destined for opposition groups was found by authorities yesterday.
Officials discovered 19 rifles, 118 magazines, 90 radios and six mobile phones inside a commercial cargo plane at Arturo Michelena international airport, near the northern Venezuelan city of Valencia.
Deputy Minister for Prevention and Citizen Security Endes Palencia said the arsenal had been found by the national guard and the customs and tax service after suspicions were raised over the plane’s cargo.
Authorities believed the arms were sent from the Miami, Florida, a notorious staging post for assaults by right-wing emigres from Latin American countries including Venezuela and Cuba.
The find comes after right-wing Venezuelan expatriates appealed at the end of January for Washington to give them weapons to start an insurrection against democratically elected President Nicolas Maduro.
Carlos Guillen Martinez and Josue Hidalgo Azuaje claimed to be in touch with “hundreds” of soliders inside Venezuela who would take up arms in their bid to install US puppet Juan Guaido, the unelected president of the defunct National Assembly, as Venezuela’s leader.
Mr Azuaje said: “We’re not saying that we need only US support, but also Brazil, Colombia, Peru, all brother countries, that are against this dictatorship.”
However, Mr Maduro can rely on the support of Venezuela’s armed forces and a civilian militia with an estimated 1.6 members, having trebled in size since last year.
It is rumoured that Mr Maduro is preparing to arm civilians as fears mount over a potential US-led military intervention. Reports suggest that 40,000 people will be sent weapons to repel any attack.
Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez insisted that the country was prepared to defend itself after the weapons shipment was discovered, saying: “Sovereignty is not discussed, it is defended.”
Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza warned: “Donald Trump confirms that he is at the forefront of the coup, threatening again to use military force, violating the charter of the United Nations. The Venezuelan opposition is controlled by Trump.”
Investigations are under way to identify the intended recipient of the arms.
That the country faces an imperialist coup attempt led by Washington has become clear following admissions by hawkish National Security Adviser John Bolton that the US wants to privatise Venezuela’s vast oil riches.
The country has the world’s largest proven reserves, almost 300 billion barrels.
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