Venezuela 'ready' to defend itself after US invokes defence pact: foreign minister

The Venezuela National Guard has been deployed in Tachira state and other sited near the border with Colombia

Venezuela is "ready" to defend itself, Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said Friday, after Washington invoked a regional defence pact that might justify such a move.

"We are ready to protect ourselves, we are ready to react," Arreaza told a news conference after meeting in Geneva with UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet.

"We will let no one trample sacred Venezuelan soil, we will respond and hope that never happens," the minister said.

On Wednesday, the US invoked a regional defence pact with 10 other countries and Venezuela's opposition in response to "bellicose" moves by President Nicolas Maduro's regime.

A request to invoke the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR) came from the Venezuelan opposition, according to a statement by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that was retweeted by President Donald Trump.

"Recent bellicose moves by the Venezuelan military to deploy along the border with Colombia as well as the presence of illegal armed groups and terrorist organizations in Venezuelan territory demonstrate that Nicolas Maduro not only poses a threat to the Venezuelan people, his actions threaten the peace and security of Venezuela’s neighbors," Pompeo said.

Trump said Thursday that former national security advisor John Bolton "was holding me back" on Venezuela, where Washington has recognised opposition leader Juan Guaido as the legitimate president.

The US invoked the TIAR in response to large-scale movements by Venezuelan troops near the border with Colombia, which Maduro has accused of trying to "trigger a conflict."

In Geneva, Arreaza insisted that "we will never attack a brother country, our people will never trample the ground of a brother country, under any circumstance, except to defend our people and territorial integrity".

Venezuela is gripped by a deep political and economic crisis and has begun to deploy 150,000 troops along its long border with Colombia.

Colombian President Ivan Duque has also ruled out an invasion of Venezuela, but recognises Guaido as the legitimate president.

Arreaza dismissed the opposition's invoking of the TIAR as "illegal" and "dangerous" because "it suggests they have activated a mechanism to attack Venezuela".