Venezuela's Maduro issues emergency decrees

2016-05-14 17:36


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Caracas - Embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro declared a three-month state of emergency late on Friday to face "threats from abroad", as his emboldened opposition geared for a vote to oust him from office.

In an address to the nation, Maduro said he had signed a new state of emergency decree "to neutralise and defeat foreign aggression", which he said is closing in on the country.

Maduro said the measures will likely last through 2017, but he did not specify if they will limit civil rights.

The announcement, made with his full cabinet at his side, broadens the scope of an economic emergency decree in effect since January that was set to expire on Saturday.

The new decree, he said, is "a fuller, more comprehensive protection for our people", which "guarantees peace, guarantees stability, that will allow us during the months of May, June, July" to "recover the country's productive capacity".

Political opposition

It will be extended "constitutionally" and last for the rest of the year "and likely throughout the year 2017", he said.

Maduro first issued a 60-day decree for emergency powers on January 14, which was extended in March, to deal with Venezuela's out of control economic crisis.

The economic decree authorised the president to take over private business assets in order to guarantee the supply of basic household products to the public.

Maduro's political opposition said this opens the door to new expropriations.

The president is widely blamed for a crisis in which Venezuelans are having to queue for hours for rations of basic food and other goods.

Maduro has also imposed daily electricity blackouts and has public employees working just two days a week due to power shortages.

In 2015 Venezuela's economy contracted 5.7% and its official inflation rate topped 180% - one of the highest in the world. Non-government economists estimate the real inflation rate is several times higher.

Maduro regularly blames US and local business interests for what his administration sees as a conspiracy against Venezuela amid low oil prices.

Main trading partner

Washington has had a rocky relationship with the leftist government in Caracas for years, and the two countries have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010.

Despite the acrimony the US is Venezuela's main trading partner and the biggest customer for oil, the South American country's main export.

Caracas depends overwhelmingly on oil revenue, and has suffered mightily since the plunge in world oil prices.

Two senior government officials, lawmaker Diosdado Cabello and Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez, expressed support for Maduro on Twitter.

Opposition lawmaker Tomas Guanipa however believes that the state of emergency is aimed at "destabilising the country to prevent the recall vote".

Maduro, blamed for Venezuela's deep economic crisis, has a 68% disapproval rating according to pollsters Venebarometro.

Maduro announced the decree hours after Venezuelan opposition leaders met with Luis Almagro, the head of the Organisation of American States (OAS).

It would be "the worst act of political corruption", if a recall vote is not held this year, said Almagro, speaking at a forum in Miami.

Opposition leaders have until the end of 2016 to hold the recall vote if they want new presidential elections - but according to the constitution, after January 2017 a successful recall would transfer power to Maduro's vice president rather than trigger new elections.

Read more on:    nicolas maduro  |  venezuela

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