The Americas

Venezuela's Maduro seeks to expand armed civilian militias

  • Members of the Bolivarian Militia march during their seventh anniversary celebration, in front of the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, April 17, 2017. Officially known as the Venezuelan National Bolivarian Militia, it is a branch of the National Armed Forces of Venezuela created by the late President Hugo Chavez. The anniversary celebration took place with unrest spreading in Venezuela as confrontations between opposition demonstrators and authorities continue. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

    Members of the Bolivarian Militia march during their seventh anniversary celebration, in front of the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, April 17, 2017. Officially known as the Venezuelan National Bolivarian Militia, it is a branch of the National Armed Forces of Venezuela created by the late President Hugo Chavez. The anniversary celebration took place with unrest spreading in Venezuela as confrontations between opposition demonstrators and authorities continue. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)  (The Associated Press)

  • Members of the Bolivarian Militia participate in their seventh anniversary celebration, in front of the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, April 17, 2017. Officially known as the Venezuelan National Bolivarian Militia, it is a branch of the National Armed Forces of Venezuela created by the late President Hugo Chavez. The anniversary celebration took place with unrest spreading in Venezuela as confrontations between opposition demonstrators and authorities continue. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

    Members of the Bolivarian Militia participate in their seventh anniversary celebration, in front of the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, April 17, 2017. Officially known as the Venezuelan National Bolivarian Militia, it is a branch of the National Armed Forces of Venezuela created by the late President Hugo Chavez. The anniversary celebration took place with unrest spreading in Venezuela as confrontations between opposition demonstrators and authorities continue. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)  (The Associated Press)

  • Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, left, speaks to Defense Minister Padrino Lopez during the seventh anniversary celebration of the Bolivarian Militia, in front of the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, April 17, 2017. Officially known as the Venezuelan National Bolivarian Militia, it is a branch of the National Armed Forces of Venezuela created by the late President Hugo Chavez. The anniversary celebration took place with unrest spreading in Venezuela as confrontations between opposition demonstrators and authorities continue. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

    Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, left, speaks to Defense Minister Padrino Lopez during the seventh anniversary celebration of the Bolivarian Militia, in front of the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, April 17, 2017. Officially known as the Venezuelan National Bolivarian Militia, it is a branch of the National Armed Forces of Venezuela created by the late President Hugo Chavez. The anniversary celebration took place with unrest spreading in Venezuela as confrontations between opposition demonstrators and authorities continue. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)  (The Associated Press)

President Nicolas Maduro is looking to expand the number of civilians involved in armed militias as tensions in the crisis-wracked nation continue to rise.

Maduro on Monday said that he hopes the number of militia members will reach 500,000 compared to 100,000 currently. He said each new member would be equipped with a gun.

The Bolivarian militias were created by the late Hugo Chavez with the goal of training 1 million civilians to assist the armed forces in the defense of his socialist revolution from external and domestic attacks.

Maduro's comments on the anniversary of the militia's creation come as opponents gear up for a big demonstration Wednesday in which they are seeking to force elections.