Venezuela, like U.S., to hold military exercises in the Caribbean

Venezuela plans to hold military exercises soon along its coasts and with neighboring countries' armed forces, the defense minister said Wednesday, while U.S. warships were conducting their own maneuvers in the Caribbean.

Adm. Orlando Maniglia did not specify when Venezuelan troops would train with other countries, but said the Venezuelan military is planning its own naval and air exercises along the nation's coast.

Maniglia made the remark when asked about the U.S. deployment of an aircraft carrier and other ships and planes to the Caribbean this month for joint exercises with various countries' militaries. The training is to last through late May.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Tuesday called the U.S. exercises "a threat against us _ not just against Venezuela but also against Cuba." U.S. officials have denied it, saying they are holding standard naval training, partly focused on fighting drug trafficking.

"We have the same sort of exercises," Maniglia told reporters. "We already have planned some future exercises with the government of Curacao, and also with the Dutch, with the navy and armed forces of Colombia ... with the Brazilians."

The dates of the training were unclear, but the defense minister suggested Venezuela's military was planning air and naval exercises on its coast in the short-term.

Chavez also has sought to build up the military reserve to face a possible U.S. invasion a suggestion Washington denies as baseless. The leftist president says all Venezuelans must be prepared for a "war of resistance" and that he aims for the military reserve to grow to 1 million men and women, and it already has some 150,000 members, outnumbering the military's 100,000 regular troops.

Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel said the U.S. threat makes it necessary for the government "to move internationally as we are doing." He didn't elaborate, but said U.S. attempts to threaten Chavez's government are "doomed to failure", reports AP.


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