Protests Against Maduro to Test State of Emergency

Protests Against Maduro to Test State of EmergencyProtests Against Maduro to Test State of Emergency

Protests were to take place across Venezuela on Wednesday against President Nicolas Maduro in the first challenge to sweeping powers he has decreed for police and soldiers under a state of emergency.

The opposition-led marches in Caracas and other cities were to demand that authorities validate a recall referendum seeking Maduro’s ouster, AFP reported.

But the 53-year-old president has dismissed the push against him.

On Tuesday, he said the referendum was “not viable” and a petition it was based on with 1.8 million signatures was riddled with “fraud.”

The 60-day state of emergency was imposed from Monday to tackle what Maduro said were threats to security, as well as food and energy shortages.

It notably suspends many constitutional protections by opening the way to expropriations and almost any action deemed necessary to maintain public order.

The Venezuelan president has accused Washington of having “imperial” designs on Caracas and said a US AWACS surveillance plane had twice violated his country’s airspace last week.

Maduro has separately ordered military exercises for Saturday.

Despite his decree, there have so far been no signs of increased military presence in the streets.

But Wednesday’s demonstrations could face a robust police deployment. A Caracas march last week, before the emergency decree, was halted in its tracks by riot police firing tear gas.

Venezuela’s opposition has urged the public to defy the state of emergency and called on the army to decide whether it sides “with the constitution or with Maduro.”