Venezuela opposition slams 'desperate'
Maduro state of emergency
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[May 16, 2016]
By Alexandra Ulmer and Corina Pons
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's opposition
on Saturday slammed a state of emergency decreed by President Nicolas
Maduro and vowed to press home efforts to remove the leftist leader this
year amid a grim economic crisis.
Opposition supporters shout slogans to Venezuelan National Guards
through a fence, during a rally to demand a referendum to remove
President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, May 11, 2016.
REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Maduro on Friday night declared a 60-day state of emergency due to
what he called plots from Venezuela and the United States to subvert
him. He did not provide specifics.
The measure shows Maduro is panicking as a push for a recall
referendum against him gains traction with tired, frustrated
Venezuelans, opposition leaders said during a protest in Caracas.
"We're talking about a desperate president who is putting himself on
the margin of legality and constitutionality," said Democratic Unity
coalition leader Jesus Torrealba, adding Maduro was losing support
within his own bloc.
"If this state of emergency is issued without consulting the
National Assembly, we would technically be talking about a
self-coup," he told hundreds of supporters who waved Venezuelan
flags and chanted "he's going to fall."
The opposition won control of the National Assembly in a December
election, propelled by voter anger over product shortages, raging
inflation that has annihilated salaries, and rampant violent crime,
but the legislature has been routinely undercut by the Supreme
"A TIME BOMB"
Protests are on the rise and a key poll shows nearly 70 percent of
Venezuelans now say Maduro must go this year.
Maduro has vowed to see his term through, however, blasting
opposition politicians as coup-mongering elitists seeking to emulate
the impeachment of fellow leftist Dilma Rousseff in Brazil.
Saying trouble-makers were fomenting violence to justify a foreign
invasion, Maduro on Saturday ordered military exercises for next
"We're going to tell imperialism and the international
right that the people are present, with their farm instruments in
one hand and a gun in the other... to defend this sacred land," he
boomed at a rally.
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He added the government would take over idled factories, without
Critics of Maduro, a former union leader and bus driver, say he
should instead focus on people's urgent needs.
"There will be a social explosion if Maduro doesn't let the recall
referendum happen," said protester Marisol Dos Santos, 34, an office
worker at a supermarket where she says some 800 people queue up
But the opposition fear authorities are trying to delay a referendum
until 2017, when the presidency would fall to the vice president, a
post currently held by Socialist Party loyalist Aristobulo Isturiz.
"If you block this democratic path we don't know what might happen
in this country," two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles
said at the demonstration.
"Venezuela is a time bomb that can explode at any given moment."
(Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Alistair Bell)
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