CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela's president has ordered the creation of a new workers' militia to defend the country's "Bolivarian revolution" at a time when the government faces economic problems and political turmoil.
President Nicolas Maduro gave few details about the militia, including how many members it would consist of, but said it would be part of the Bolivarian Militia created by late President Hugo Chavez, which consists of roughly 120,000 volunteers. Analysts have said only about one-fourth of that force is combat ready.
Maduro's announcement in a speech in Caracas late Wednesday got little attention in the Venezuelan media.
The president said he had ordered military leaders to "move forward as fast as possible in the establishment and organization of the Bolivarian Militias of Workers."
He urged the crowd to imagine the respect the working class would command if it had "300,000, 500,000, 1 million, 2 million uniformed workers, armed, prepared to defend the sovereignty of the homeland."
Critics have warned such militias could be used to cement the socialist government's hold on power.
Chavez, a former paratrooper who died in March, sought to incorporate the military into his political efforts to turn Venezuela into a socialist state. During his 14-year rule, he warned repeatedly of potential threats to the government, including what he alleged were conspiracies in the United States and Venezuela's opposition, which they denied.
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