Blaming what he called a US-backed plot to undermine his authority, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has decreed a 60-day state of emergency and ordered the state seizure of factories in a bid to halt a crisis that threatens mass unrest.
Apart from orders to nationalize factories, Maduro has also called on the Army to ready for national military drills this week “to prepare ourselves for any scenario”.
Maduro also urged “all actions to recover the production apparatus, which is being paralyzed by the bourgeoisie,” adding that factory owners who “sabotage the country” by halting production at their plants risk being “put in handcuffs.”
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His message is seemingly aimed at Empresas Polar, the country’s largest food and drink distributor, which ceased production in the last of its four beer plants in April after citing shortages of imported supplies.
Maduro’s latest moves come as the country grapples with food and power shortages, runaway inflation, protests and political uncertainty, which may be the setting of a popular revolt.
The state of emergency aims to curb any right to demonstrate against the government, while allowing police to arrest without a warrant and hold raids.
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The opposition forces, which now control the country’s national assembly, reacted furiously. “We’re talking about a desperate president who is putting himself on the margin of legality and constitutionality. If this state of emergency is issued without consulting the National Assembly, we would technically be talking about a self-coup,” they said, also warning of the risk of a “social explosion”.
Venezuela’s economy, which heavily relies on oil exports representing 95 percent of the country’s revenues, was severely affected by the slump in oil prices. Last year, the economy shrank by 6 percent while inflation is projected to rise to as much as 720 percent this year.
By James Burgess of Oilprice.com
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