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Venezuela's state of emergency spurned

May 18, 2016

The opposition-controlled National Assembly has dismissed the decree, saying it will worsen the country's political crisis. President Nicolas Maduro claims the emergency was called to see off a possible US invasion.

Venezuela Protest
Image: Getty Images/AFP/F. Parra

Voting by a show of hands, opposition politicians said Maduro had ignored the country's constitution in issuing the urgent order, which went into effect on Monday.

"This is a decree made to scare Venezuelans," said lawmaker Julio Borges during the congressional session. "The only thing that interests the government is perpetuating its power."

Ahead of the vote, opposition leader Henrique Capriles said if Maduro wanted to enforce the decree, "he will have to bring out the warplanes and the tanks into the street, because he will have to apply it through force."

'Venezuela threatened'

Maduro - the unpopular successor to the late Hugo Chavez - said the state of emergency, which runs for a renewable 60-day period, was enacted to see off threats to the country.

Before the vote, he accused the US of plotting an invasion of the politically-divided country, which is suffering the economic consequences of a dramatic fall in oil prices. Maduro also claimed that the US military had flown a spy plane over Venezuela last week.

Venezuela Präsident Nicolas Maduro
Venezuelan President Nicolas MaduroImage: Imago/Xinhua

But despite Tuesday's win in the National Assembly, analysts said the Supreme Court may overrule the decision, as it has done with other congressional decisions.

Push for Maduro's ouster

The vote took place a day before opposition-led marches were due to take place to demand that a proposed referendum to oust the president goes ahead.

The opposition needed 200,000 signatures to submit a petition for a recall vote, they claimed 1.8 million. But the government needs to validate the petition before the process can proceed, and the electoral commission is yet to respond.

Last week, protest marches turned violent, with soldiers using tear gas against stone-throwing youths and one official pepper-spraying Capriles.

Public enraged

Venezuela has seen weeks of public anger against hyperinflation, food and medicine shortages, along with rampant crime and corruption.

Across the country, neighbors have taken to blocking roads or gathering near state utility offices to show their rage over power-cuts, food prices or lack of water.

The state of emergency measures give the army and police additional powers to keep public order, with the backing of local civilian groups.

But on Tuesday, there were no immediate signs of any changes in the streets of the capital, Caracas, news agencies reported.

mm/jm (AFP, Reuters)