Venezuela takes control of food, energy sources to tackle crisis

May 17, 2016 6:25 am

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks at a rally in Caracas, May 14, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

The Venezuelan government has given itself sweeping powers to control food and energy supplies and enhance security measures under a state of emergency to tackle an acute economic crisis.
The government published in its official gazette a set of measures that are to be taken under the 60-day state of emergency declared by President Nicolas Maduro earlier on Friday.
The measures give the government and security forces broad authorization to maintain order and supply basic food and services for people.
Maduro says the state of emergency is necessary “to tend to our country and, more importantly, to prepare to denounce, neutralize and overcome the external and foreign aggression against our country.”
The government is now allowed to conduct “necessary and urgent means” to restore and maintain sources of energy.
Under the guidelines, the military would be helped by ancillary security units to maintain potential public unrest.
Maduro said on Saturday that all businesses and factories closed by their owners would be seized and handed over to their workers in order to restart production in the country.
“A stopped factory is a factory turned over to the people,” he said. “The moment to do it has come. I’m ready to do it to radicalize the revolution.”
He accused the owners of the factories of intentionally sabotaging production in an effort to help topple the government amid the economic crisis.

Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles speaks during a demonstration in Caracas, May 14, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Having taken effect on Monday, the new measures would have to be sent to the National Assembly and the Supreme Court for review in line with the Venezuelan constitution.
The opposition-dominated parliament is expected to oppose the state of emergency, but the Supreme Court is expected to support it.
The president has so far managed to successfully block previous bills against him in the National Assembly by appealing to the Supreme Court.
Maduro has also called for military exercises to take place next weekend to prepare for “any scenario,” including a foreign invasion.
He also ordered the security to prevent “destabilizing actions that mean to disrupt life inside the country or its international relations.”
The president has said previously that the opposition, with the support of the United States, attempts to bring about a coup d’état in the oil-rich country.
The opposition, which swept two thirds of the seats in the Venezuelan legislature in 2015, has vowed to oust Maduro. It has tried to call a direct referendum on whether to remove Maduro from office.  
Vice President Aristobulo Isturiz, however, ruled out the possibility of a recall referendum. “Maduro won’t be ousted by a referendum because there will be no referendum,” he said.
Isturiz said the opposition had “acted too late” over the recall referendum, had “done it wrong and had committed fraud”.
The new security measures will be put to a test on Wednesday, when nation-wide opposition rallies are scheduled to take place.
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