190504 Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro (R) greeting troop members during military exercises of cadets of the Bolivarian Military University at a training center in El Pao, Cojedes state, Venezuela on May 4, 2019. Image Credit: AFP

Caracas: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called on the armed forces to be "ready" in the event of a US military offensive against the South American country, in a speech to troops on Saturday.

Maduro called on the military "to be ready to defend the homeland with weapons in your hands if one day the US empire dares to touch this territory, this sacred earth."

His speech at a military base came as opposition leader Juan Guaido rallied his supporters in a new day of protests to press the armed forces to support his bid to dislodge Maduro.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a direct appeal to the Venezuelan people on Saturday, urging them to drive Maduro from power and telling them "the time for transition is now."

"You can hold your institutions, your military and their leaders to the highest standards and demand a return to democracy," Pompeo said in the video message, released as Maduro urged his troops to be "ready" for potential US military action.

"The United States stands firmly with you in your quest," added Pompeo, whose appeal came as opposition leader Juan Guaido made a new push for the Venezuelan armed forces to abandon Maduro.