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Venezuela's President Declared a State of Emergency Because He Fears a US Coup Attempt

With Venezuela trapped in a worsening economic and energy crisis, Maduro is facing a push from the opposition bloc to oust him this year via recall referendum.
Imagen por EPA

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has declared a 60-day state of emergency, citing concerns that the United States may be plotting a coup to topple his socialist government.

He signed the measure on Friday, flanked by his ministers and a statue of late leader Hugo Chavez, but did not provide details about what the state of emergency would entail.

Nor did Maduro, a 53-year old former bus driver and trade union leader, say what the state of emergency would entail. A state of emergency declared last year in the region near the Colombian border suspended constitutional guarantees (except for those relating to human rights).


Venezuela is currently embroiled in a worsening crisis, which includes widespread food and medicine shortages, frequent power cuts, sporadic looting and galloping inflation. Maduro is facing a push from the opposition bloc to oust him this year via a recall referendum.

Maduro's fear that he's losing control appeared to be compounded by this week's impeachment of fellow leftist Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, and he has taken her ousting as a sign that he could be next to go.

"Washington is activating measures at the request of Venezuela's fascist right, who are emboldened by the coup in Brazil," Maduro said during a Friday night broadcast on state television.

Related: Venezuelans Lose Half an Hour as the Country's Crisis Deepens

On Thursday, in a televised speech regarding Rousseff's impeachment, Maduro said he had "no doubt that behind this coup is the label 'made in the USA.'"

"Powerful oligarchic, media and imperial forces have decided to finish with the progressive forces, the popular revolutionary leaderships of the left in the continent," he said.

"The coup in Brazil is a grave and dangerous sign for the future stability and peace of all the continent. I know they're coming for Venezuela now."

Venezuela's opposition, which scoffs at Maduro's accusations of coup-mongering, quickly condemned the measure.

"Today Maduro has again violated the constitution," said opposition lawmaker Tomas Guanipa. "Why? Because he is scared of being recalled."


Earlier on Friday, US intelligence officials told reporters that they were increasingly worried about the potential for an economic and political meltdown in Venezuela, and predicted that Maduro may not complete his term.

Many Venezuelans have gotten into the habit of getting up in the middle of the night to get into hour-long queues for supermarkets.

Mobs in Venezuela have stolen flour, chicken, and even underwear this week as looting increases across the crisis-hit OPEC nation, where many basic products have run short.

As more end up empty-handed and black market prices soar, plundering is rising in Venezuela, already one of the world's most violent countries.

There is no official data, but rights group Venezuelan Observatory for Social Conflict reported 107 episodes of looting or attempted looting in the first quarter.

Maduro also introduced a series of emergency measures last month aimed at coping with the acute energy shortage, including scaling back Venezuelan's work week to just two days, and putting the clocks forward 30 minutes. Power cuts have been part of daily life in the country outside of the capital since March. In April, Maduro's government introduced daily blackouts lasting four hours.

Related: Venezuelans Are Pissed About Plan for Two-Day Work Week to Combat Energy Crisis

The AP reported last month that some Venezuelans say the country is beginning to represent the dystopia portrayed in The Hunger Games, where the nation's outer districts suffer to benefit the capital city.


Venezuela's opposition party is looking to recall Maduro, 53, amid the crisis that appears to just be getting worse.

Relations between the US and Venezuela have been fraught for years, especially after Washington threw its support behind the short-lived coup in 2002 against Chavez.

Maduro has frequently accused the US of plotting a coup against him. Last year, he claimed to have foiled a US-backed coup plot, wherein members of the Venezuelan air force were going to attack the presidential palace with a military jet.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki dismissed the claims.

"These latest accusations, like all previous such accusations, are ludicrous," Psaki said.

Reuters contributed to this report