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Maduro plans to expand Venezuela militias

CARACAS – Venezuela's embattled President Nicolas Maduro is seeking to beef up his nation's defense in response to growing tensions with the United States.

Maduro spoke before a gathering of troops Tuesday and set a new goal of expanding Venezuela's civilian armed militia to 2 million members by mid-April.

The reserve force was created by the late Hugo Chavez to train civilians to assist the armed forces and defend the socialist revolution from attacks.

The move comes as U.S.-Venezuela relations grow increasingly hostile, with the U.S. withdrawing recognition of Maduro's government.

Most analysts believe a U.S. military intervention in Venezuela is unlikely but President Donald Trump has said "all options are on the table."

Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan on Tuesday wouldn't rule out sending U.S. military forces to Colombia or the region in connection with the political upheaval.