President Nicolas Maduro has ordered the army to break what his opponents vow will be a major protest rally on Wednesday - a national holiday that marks the start of Venezuela's independence struggle in 1810.

Venezuela's defence minister has declared the army's loyalty to Maduro saying "We don't want confrontation."
Venezuela's defence minister has declared the army's loyalty to Maduro saying "We don't want confrontation."

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has ordered the army into the streets as the volatile country braces for what his opponents vow will be the "mother of all protests" on Wednesday.

Maduro, who has faced violent protests over recent moves to tighten his grip on power, ordered the military to defend the leftist "Bolivarian revolution" launched by his late mentor Hugo Chavez in 1999.

From the first reveille (on Monday morning), from the first rooster crow, the Bolivarian National Armed Forces will be in the streets... saying, 'Long live the Bolivarian revolution — Nicolas Maduro

State TV showed images of army units marching in the streets of Caracas as Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino watched.

But there was no sign of soldiers on patrol on Monday morning in the capital.

Counter-demonstration

Venezuela has been rocked by two weeks of unrest since Maduro's camp moved to consolidate its control with a Supreme Court decision quashing the power of the opposition-majority legislature.

The court partly backtracked after an international outcry, but tension only rose further when authorities slapped a political ban on opposition leader Henrique Capriles.

"Venezuela does not want rifles, want food and medicine!" said Capriles on Monday.

Five people have been killed and hundreds wounded in the ensuing protests as riot police clashed with demonstrators.

Maduro's opponents have called for a massive protest on Wednesday, a national holiday that marks the start of Venezuela's independence struggle in 1810.

The president's supporters have called a counter-demonstration the same day.

It is a touchy date in Venezuela, where Chavez and Maduro have built a politics of populist, left-wing nationalism around the struggle for independence from colonial Spain and its hero, Simon Bolivar.

Venezuela has been rocked by two weeks of unrest in which many people have were killed or injured.
Venezuela has been rocked by two weeks of unrest in which many people have were killed or injured.

"We don't want confrontation"

Maduro is fighting off the centre-right opposition's efforts to force him from power amid an economic crisis that has sparked severe food shortages, riots and looting.

Opposition leaders have urged the military — a pillar of Maduro's power — to turn on the socialist president.

Venezuela's defence minister on Monday declared the army's loyalty to Maduro saying "We don't want confrontation."

"The Bolivarian National Armed Forces remains united... and confirms its unconditional loyalty to the president," General Vladimir Padrino told thousands of pro-Maduro militia members at a rally outside the presidential palace.

Source: AFP