Maduro pleads for solidarity in Skyped news conferenceWednesday, May 18, 2016
BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS Senior staff reporter email@example.com
Embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro yesterday sought to shore up international support for his leadership, but at the same time insisted that his Government would not tolerate any outside interference in the affairs of his crisis-torn country.
Maduro made the appeal in a near four-hour press conference skyped to Venezuela’s embassies across the world, including the mission in Kingston, even as the Opposition urged the public to defy a state of emergency he decreed over a nation sapped by food shortages and a collapsing economy.
Opposition Leader Henrique Capriles also said the army must decide whether it is "with the constitution or with Maduro", a day before nationwide protests demanding the president’s ouster through a referendum.
Speaking from the presidential palace in Caracas, Maduro made it clear that he was particularly against any meddling from the United States. He said the referendum was "not viable" and accused Washington of playing a role in the woes rocking his oil-rich, South American country.
He said Washington had "imperial" designs on Venezuela, adding that a US AWACS surveillance plane had twice violated his country’s airspace last week.
He said he called the state of emergency, which came into force on Monday for a renewable 60-day period, to see off threats to the country.
Measures include broadening the powers of soldiers and police to keep public order, with the backing of local civilian groups.
Maduro has also ordered military exercises for Saturday.
At points during the news conference, Maduro directed his frustration at some media, holding aloft copies of theNew York Times,
Washington Post and Spain’sEl Pais newspapers to demonstrate what he said was the nasty smear campaign being pursued against him and his Government.
Using images of South American independence leader Simon Bolivar as his backdrop, Maduro said he would do everything to defend Venezuela’s sovereignty and spoke out against interference by the US and its allies in places such as Iraq and Libya.
He insisted that it was his intention to reconstruct the tattered Venezuelan economy.
The call for solidarity with Venezuela comes amidst a blistering economic downturn which has spawned ahumanitarian crisis. Venezuelans have been lining up for food, enduring blackouts, with hundreds said to have died inside health facilities which have buckled under the weight of a scarcity of critical drugs, equipment and the facilities needed to save lives.
In April, the Government cut its working hours to two days per week in a desperate move to save energy in the cash-strapped country, which was sent into economic shock when oil prices started to plummet last year. Venezuela — a member of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries — depends on oil for over 90 per cent of its foreign currency, but has seen a nosedive in its income as a result of the decline in oil prices to below US$40 a barrel.
But even with oil pushing toward US$50 a barrel yesterday as wildfires spread in Canada’s oil sand region, BMI Research oil and gas analyst Peter Lee was reported byAgence France Presse as projecting that the price is likely to hold between US$45 and US$50 a barrel in the second half of the year.
Maduro had declared an economic emergency in January, even as inflation ballooned to over 140 per cent, according to Venezuela’s central bank. The Opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable Alliance still has control of the legislature, having taken 112 of the 167 seats at the December 2015 polls.
Yesterday at the Venezuelan embassy in Kingston, ChargÃ© d’Affaires Luisa Gutierrez explained that Maduro has indicated that he wants the economic emergency decree granted by the National Assembly in January to be extended for another 60 days to allow the Government time to "reactivate" the economy, by, among other things, helping factories that closed to reopen.
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