Washington slaps seven officials with sanctions as US president signs executive order calling Caracas a security threat.
President Nicolas Maduro has sought special decree powers from Venezuela’s parliament in response to new US sanctions, sparking alarm among critics of his socialist administration.
“I’ve come to ask for an Enabling Law to confront the aggression of the most powerful country in the world, the United States, against this beautiful nation,” Maduro said during a speech to the National Assembly on Tuesday. “This is a law that will prepare our country, may we never be caught off guard.”
Maduro did not specify the powers that the law would grant him or say exactly how he would apply them.
He also announced that the military would stage exercises around Venezuela on Saturday to ensure that the “Yankee boot” can never touch the South American oil country.
If as expected the government-controlled National Assembly approves his request for an Enabling Law, it would be the second time the 52-year-old successor to Hugo Chavez has gained these expanded powers since winning election in 2013.
Opposition lawmaker Elias Matta accused the government of using the US spat as an excuse to ask for decree powers they had long planned to request due to fear of losing control of the National Assembly as some pollsters say they might.
“The government is taking advantage of this situation with the United States … they’d already planned this,” he said. “But a majority-led assembly can also strike down laws.”
The opposition coalition, too, is seeking to unite its fractious parties and portray recent events as evidence of Maduro’s dictatorial face and lack of attention to shortages, crime and other day-to-day problems.
Venezuela’s National Assembly requires two votes to approve the Enabling Law once a formal request is received. In the past, both Maduro and Chavez have received speedy approval of the Enabling Law.
US President Barack Obama on Monday issued an executive order declaring Venezuela a national security threat, and placed sanctions on seven officials.
The White House said the new set of targeted sanctions excludes the Venezuelan people and any trade relations with the nation, and are instead specifically aimed at government officials the US accuses of violating human rights.