Venezuela Plans Army Exercises as Maduro Seeks to Prolong Powers

  • Drills would prepare ‘for any scenario,’ president tells rally
  • As he warns ‘extremists,’ opposition stages Caracas protest

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced undefined “military exercises” for the embattled nation, just a day after pledging to prolong his government’s special emergency powers.

Speaking in Caracas’s Ibarra Square after a march Saturday by several hundred supporters, Maduro said his opponents are orchestrating foreign military intervention in Venezuela. Exercises by the army and militia groups would prepare “for any scenario,” Maduro said.

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“The oligarchy’s plan is to disturb the peace so they can justify foreign intervention in Venezuela,” Maduro said in televised remarks at the rally. “I’m not an extremist for saying this, but they’re extremists for wanting to carry this out.”

Maduro’s moves added to the sense of political and economic tension gripping the country beset by the world’s highest inflation, shortages of basic goods, and currency controls. Supporters of opposition groups who are urging a presidential recall vote demonstrated simultaneously on Saturday.

Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe said on May 12 that Venezuela’s opposition may need protection from outside armed forces. On Saturday, Maduro pledged legal action against Uribe, without giving details.

The announcement of military drills follows Maduro’s decision Friday to extend an emergency period that grants his administration greater autonomy in drafting national policy. Opposition politicians, who have controlled Venezuela’s congress since December, say Maduro’s move to expand his autonomy is illegal and have pledged to block it.