Venezuela extends ′state of emergency′ | News | DW | 15.07.2016
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Venezuela extends 'state of emergency'

The state of emergency has been extended as chronic food and energy shortages continue in the oil-rich Latin American country. The president has handed responsibility for goods distribution to the defense ministry.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro extended the country's state of "economic emergency" for another 60 days - the third time since January - according to an official newspaper.

Since taking office in 2013, Maduro has named a number of active and retired generals to run the economy. All five of his food ministers who manage one of the government's largest budgets have come from the military. And they, in turn, have placed dozens of their military subordinates to lead everything from a state-run chain of supermarkets to an agency overseeing food imports.

So perhaps it was no surprise this week when Maduro boosted the authority of his defense minister, making him responsible for distributing food, medicine and basic goods. The armed forces have also taken control of Venezuela's five main ports.

Kolumbien Venezuela öffnet seine Grenze temporär

The collapse in the price for Venezuela's oil has forced austerity measures, leading officials to tightly restrict access to the foreign currency needed to import raw materials. Many Venezuelans have resorted to taking cross-border trips to buy essential goods.

Sliding energy prices bankrupting country

State TV broadcast images Wednesday of uniformed officers inspecting chicken plants and studying delivery orders for a large shipment of vegetable oil.

"We're going to defeat this economic war because there's political will, from the people's power and the armed forces," Gen. Pedro Alvarez told the broadcaster while carrying out the inspection near the capital Caracas.

The country's economic crisis is serious. An estimated 80 percent of food items, medicines and other basics are in short supply. Inflation hit 180 percent last year, and the International Monetary Fund has forecast it at 720 percent this year.

Maduro complains his government is being targeted by US interests and local business elites bent on stoking grassroots anger and removing him from power of the oil-rich country.

But his critics say the problems stem from rock-bottom oil prices and Maduro's left-wing government's model of tight grips on the economy and currency controls in place since 2003.

jar/jil (AP, AFP)

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