MIAMI — The Venezuelan government’s decision to arm civilians to defend the country’s socialist revolution amid growing unrest is rekindling fears of terrorists and criminal organizations acquiring part of the nation’s arsenal, which includes a large stockpile of shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles.

Experts and U.S. policymakers are concerned about the risk that some of these missiles – as well as thousands of modern assault rifles and banned anti-personnel mines – might fall into the hands of criminal groups under President Nicolas Maduro’s regime, with its rampant corruption, its lack of internal controls and the country’s rapidly deteriorating conditions.

“Maduro is a dictator with close ties to terror-sponsoring regimes, and is now promising a ‘gun for every militiaman’ as his thugs counter the Venezuelan people’s peaceful pro-democracy protests with violence and lethal force,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

“This reckless action … raises the possibility that Maduro could lose control over dangerous weapons systems.”

The U.S. is especially worried about Caracas’ supply of the Igla-S, the Russian version of the U.S.-made Stinger missile.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.