Thousands Protest Venezuelan President's Decree Powers

NPR icon by Eyder Peralta
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Leo Ramirez

Thousands of Venezuelans hit the streets of Caracas today to protest the sweeping decree powers recently vested upon President Nicolás Maduro.

Leading the protest was opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who lost against Maduro by a razor-thin margin in April.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

"'I have never seen things this bad,' said Jose Delgado a 56-year-old security consultant out at a protest in downtown Caracas.

"'You have to stand in line early in the morning for flour, sugar, cooking oil. You go out and you don't find food, nor spare parts for your car. This country is bleeding to death,' Mr. Delgado said.

"Mr. Maduro, who celebrated his 51st birthday Saturday, says he intends to address the country's economic woes through the legislative powers given to him in recent days by a National Assembly that is dominated by his ruling socialist party.

"The move allows the leader to draft laws without consent from Parliament. Mr. Maduro says he needs it to launch an 'offensive' against greedy business leaders and his political foes, who he says are responsible for price-gouging and seeking to destabilize the economy. Venezuela's annual inflation rate came in just above 54% in October."

Just before Maduro was given decree powers, he essentially nationalized an electronics chain that he said was price-gouging. The government slashed prices on items and orchestrated a fire sale.

On Saturday, Maduro's opposition said the government had detained Alejandro Silva, a top Capriles aide.

During a speech Capriles condemned the administration.

"I am the problem. Come after me. I'm here and I'm not afraid of you. I told you many times, if you want to imprison me, do it," Capriles said, according to El Nacional.

He later told the crowd that he might not be able to hold another one of these rallies. If that's the case, Capriles said, people should hit the streets if Maduro's corruption "deepens."

"This is an irresponsible operation this government," Capriles said. "They're only thinking about buying votes in December, without caring what happens in January or February."

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