Venezuela leader gets emergency powers

Agence France-Presse . Caracas
Lilian Tintori, centre, wife of jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, speaks to the press outside the congress building before a meeting with relatives of victims of the 2014 protests in Caracas on Friday. — AFP photo

Lilian Tintori, centre, wife of jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, speaks to the press outside the congress building before a meeting with relatives of victims of the 2014 protests in Caracas on Friday. — AFP photo

Venezuela’s opposition on Friday vowed to speed up efforts to oust president Nicolas Maduro after he defied lawmakers by securing emergency powers to intervene in the crisis-hit oil state’s economy.
The manoeuvres intensified a political standoff that has raised fears of unrest and deepening economic suffering in the oil-rich, violence-plagued South American state.
The Supreme Court on Thursday overruled opposition from lawmakers by approving Maduro’s decree to place the country in a 60-day state of economic emergency.
The opposition reacted with outrage, accusing Maduro of expanding economic policies that they say are ruining the country.
‘In the next few days we will have to present a concrete proposal for the departure of that national disgrace that is the government,’ the opposition leader of the national assembly legislature, Henry Ramos, told a news conference Friday.
In response Maduro told sympathisers in Caracas ‘not to underestimate the threats Henry Ramos made today against peace and stability of the Republic.’
Maduro’s decree gives his administration special temporary powers to take over private companies’ resources and impose currency controls among other measures.
‘The Supreme Court of Justice has spoken, its word is holy and must be respected by all parts of society and all institutions,’ Maduro said.
Ramos and other leaders in the opposition MUD coalition had promised to devise a way within six months to oust Maduro, possibly through a new constitution or a referendum, before his current mandate expires in 2019.
It was not clear however how the opposition might overcome resistance from the court, which critics say is packed with Maduro’s supporters.
Another senior opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, said he expected the court would overrule a constitutional amendment against Maduro and that a referendum would be better.
‘The moment has come,’ Capriles said Friday. ‘This government does not want to change anything and every day the situation gets worse.’
He acknowledged obstacles to a referendum too, however, alleging that the electoral authorities in charge of such a vote are under Maduro’s influence.

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