© Reuters

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 United States.

“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, wearing military garb, also said he wanted prosperity for his country, but added “we need to have rifles, missiles and well-oiled tanks at the ready…to defend every inch of the territory if needs be.”

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.

Venezuela’s ngoing economic crisis has been triggered by the socialist policies of Maduro and his predecessor, the late former President Hugo Chavez.

Maduro referenced the sanctions during his speech at the military base on Monday during a military exercise in the city of Maracay, two days after the Trump administration signed new restrictions imposing bans on the entry of some Venezuelan government officials and their families into the U.S..

As he spoke, Russian military plans 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.

U.S. President Donald Trump rejects offer to speak to Venezuela’s President, Nicolas Maduro. Trump said in August he wouldn’t rule out a “military option” to resolve Venezuela’s political struggles.

It’s unlikely Maduro has the manpower to stand up to the U.S., which has a much larger military. Maduro has maintained power in Venezuela despite mounting political and economic crises that has seen months of violent, anti-government demonstrations across the South American nation.

Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino has backed Maduro during the upheaval, but some critics have begun a whisper campaign suggesting that the military could break away and support a coup against the president, Herbert Garcia, a former senior army general and minister, told Reuters in August. There have been three attempted military coups in Venezuela since 1992.

Russia has defended Maduro in recent months, going so far as to accuse Trump of preparing for an invasion of Caracas. “We are strongly against unilateral sanctions against sovereign states,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said in August.

“We will carefully analyze the implications of the sanctions imposed by the United States, and their possible effect on the interests of Russia and Russian businesses. We can already say that they will not affect our willingness to expand and strengthen cooperation with the friendly nation of Venezuela and its people.”

President Donald Trump directed his penchant for insulting world leaders toward Venezuela during a United Nations speech earlier this month. He said Washington could intervene in Venezuela to help its citizens “recover their country”

“We cannot stand by and watch,” he said.

Maduro oversaw a disputed election earlier this year to muzzle the elected national assembly by creating “constituent assembly” in its place.

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