Caracas, Sept 16: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has extended a state of "economic emergency" for the fourth time, keeping vast powers to deal with a crisis that has only deepened in recent weeks.
The state of emergency, in place since January, has been extended for another 60 days on Friday, said a presidential decree. The declaration allows the socialist government to seize assets of private companies to obtain essential food and goods.
Under the emergency, Maduro has put the army in charge of food distribution, seeking to ease severe shortages that have triggered outbreaks of looting and riots. The opposition-controlled legislature has opposed each emergency decree, but Maduro has gotten them validated by the Supreme Court.
The latest extension comes as the opposition prepares for protests on Friday to pressure electoral authorities on the same day they are due to announce the timeline for a referendum on removing Maduro from power.
The leftist leader's opponents are racing to force a recall vote before January 10, the deadline to trigger new elections. The opposition blames Maduro for an economic implosion in oil-rich Venezuela as global crude prices plunged since mid-2014.
Maduro says the deep recession and soaring inflation -- forecast to top 700 per cent this year -- are being caused by an "economic war" by Venezuelan elites backed by "American imperialism."