CARACAS, Venezuela (AFP) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has extended the country’s state of “economic emergency” for another 60 days, an official newspaper reported, a sign of declining conditions in the crisis-hit country.
The state of emergency, in place since January, was necessary due to “extraordinary… social, economic, political, natural and ecological” pressures, according to the presidential decree, signed by Maduro on Tuesday and released Wednesday.
The declaration allows the government to seize assets of private companies to obtain essential food and goods.
It was the third time the state of economic emergency has been extended.
In May, Maduro declared a general state of emergency, broadening the scope of the economic emergency degree and allowing security units to tackle food and energy shortages and public unrest.
Maduro is trying to cling to power and avert the total collapse of his oil-dependent country.
This week, he greatly 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 seaports.
Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States, said Wednesday that Maduro’s decision to turn key government functions over to the military is “not normal.”
An estimated 80 per cent of food items, medicines and other basics are in short supply in Venezuela. Inflation hit 180 per cent last year and the IMF has forecast it at 720 per cent this year.
Critics say the problem stems from the leftist government’s model of tight grips on the economy and currency controls in place since 2003.
Maduro says he is being targeted by US interests and local business elites bent on stoking grassroots anger and removing him from power.
The Venezuelan opposition launched efforts to remove the president after winning control of the legislature in January.
But Maduro has challenged his rivals through the Supreme Court, which they accuse him of controlling.