Venezuela fights back at Trump as its citizens starve
VENEZUELA has one of the highest crime rates in the world and is in the middle of a bloody and violent civil war, but President Nicolas Maduro insists the South American nation has bigger fish to fry.
Earlier this week, US President Donald Trump announced he was expanding his controversial travel ban to include three new countries - North Korea, Chad and Venezuela.
The order, signed on Sunday night and due to come into effect on October 18, will impose more tailored restrictions on Venezuela - specifically banning certain government officials and their families from entering the US.
In response to Mr Trump's announcement, President Maduro has fired back, calling his crippled nation to arms.
On Tuesday, while watching tank and missile exercises in the northern Venezuelan city of Maracay, Mr Maduro called on his top military leaders to ready their weapons.
"We have been shamelessly threatened by the most criminal empire that ever existed and we have the obligation to prepare ourselves to guarantee peace,” Mr Maduro said, according to News Week.
"We need to have rifles, missiles and well-oiled tanks at the ready ... to defend every inch of the territory if need be,” he added.
In an interview with news.com.au, Associate Professor of American politics at the University of Melbourne Tim Lynch said the inclusion of North Korea and Venezuela was largely symbolic.
"Really, this is about playing to the populist card, and portraying them as Cuban comrades in arms,” he said.
The White House said Venezuela was on the list because its government was "uncooperative” regarding whether its citizens posed a public safety threat - and that it failed "to share public safety and terrorism-related information adequately”.
The Trump administration has come down hard on the Maduro regime, banning lending to the Venezuelan government or its state oil company PDVSA, and passing sanctions against Mr Maduro and his top officials.
Mr Maduro slammed the sanctions in a speech saying, "The future of humanity cannot be the world of illegal sanctions, of economic persecution”.
Aircraft from Russia, a nation that has become increasingly supportive of Mr Maduro governing Venezuela, flew overhead.
He also reminded the troops listening to his speech that Venezuela had "the most modern rocket system the armed forces has ever had at any time in its history”.
Despite his threats, Venezuela's military is substantially smaller than America's.
During his speech at the United Nations General Assembly on September 20, Mr Trump said the Maduro regime had "destroyed” the once-prosperous nation.
"The socialist dictatorship of Maduro has inflicted terrible pain and suffering on the good people of that country. This corrupt regime destroyed a prosperous nation by imposing a failed ideology that has produced poverty and misery everywhere it has been tried,” he said.
"As a responsible neighbour and friend we have a goal, to help them regain their freedom, recover their country and restore their democracy,” he added.
Mr Maduro, who was not in New York for the General Assembly, instead reacted with fury from Caracas, referring to Trump and his speech as, "aggression from the new Hitler of international politics”.
A week later, Venezuela's foreign minister Jorge Arreaza gave his speech at the General Assembly where he accused Trump as acting like "the world's emperor”.
Mr Arreaza called Trump's travel restrictions a form of "political and psychological terrorism” and that Venezuela had been looking for "dialogue” with the US.
"For the moment, it has not been possible, but the will is there,” Mr Arreaza said. "But, I insist, if they attack us in whatever area, we will respond strongly in defence of our homeland, of our people.”
As President Maduro tells his people to cast their anger north to the US, his own nation struggles with triple figure inflation, a chronic shortage of basic goods, and urban violence.
The South American nation of nearly 32 million people was once richer than Saudi Arabia but is now on the verge of collapse.
The Venezuelan people are demanding economic reform and an end to the country's authoritarian rule - spearheaded by Mr Maduro, who is still refusing to step down after being in power since 2013.
Venezuela's economy is a complete mess. Despite making billions each year from oil revenues, their people are still stuck lining up for hours, waiting for basic provisions.
Prices across the country skyrocketed 800% last year alone, and the International Monetary Fund predicts it could hit 2200% by the end of the year, according to NBC News.
Demonstrators blame Mr Maduro for the country's crisis along with the shortages of food and medicine, with the New York Times reporting hospitals don't even have clean water or soap for surgeons to wash their hands. Food is scarce, with many people taking to foraging for bush food which might not be safe to eat. Meals that cost a certain amount one week are likely to be many more times expensive a week later. People are struggling to survive.
These harsh conditions - a huge change from Venezuela's former living standards - have prompted tens of thousands of people to protest. They are demanding elections to remove the leftist president.
Instead of allowing peaceful action, the government has clamped down hard.
Hundreds of people have been killed since protests intensified in April after the Maduro administration and the courts stepped up efforts to undermine opposition.
Hundreds more have been injured with thousands of others arrested.
Mr Maduro has maintained the nationwide crisis is a US-backed conspiracy specifically designed to topple his government.
But after months of violent protests and millions of people caught up in the brutality, there seems no end to the hardship of life in Venezuela.