In a speech Tuesday evening, in which he called American officials “genocidal” and promised that “Yankee boots will never touch our ground,” Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro demanded the nation’s legislature expand his already unconstitutionally developed executive order powers in light of President Obama’s new sanctions against the socialist regime.
“I have a need to have powers that will allow me to move around the complex stage on which Venezuela now stands,” Maduro told the Venezuelan legislature in an emergency address to the National Assembly. Maduro requested the legislature pass an “anti-imperialist” law that would give him expanded powers for six months, asserting that “in all parts of the world where the United States has activated such a measure, they have entered militarily.”
The United States announced expanded sanctions on seven Venezuelan officials this week, calling Maduro’s government a “national security threat.” The sanctions are not unlike those placed on high-level officials in Russia and North Korea, nations in which there is no overt American military presence.
Maduro called the sanctions on his officials “an historical aberration.”
Venezuela’s largest newspaper, El Universal, notes that President Maduro told the Assembly that he had ordered “a defensive military exercise this Saturday so that Yankee boots will never touch our ground.” He argued that the Venezuelan government was “peaceful,” as opposed to the United States, whose officials “come out on Fox News as if they were huge democrats when they are genocidal.”
President Maduro has spent many hours on Venezuelan airwaves since the White House announced sanctions on seven high-ranking Venezuelan officials, in addition to sanctions already passed by Congress. In one broadcast, Maduro appeared on the air with the seven sanctioned individuals, called them “heroes,” and promoted one to minister of the Interior.
President Maduro already almost entirely governs by decree. In November 2013, he pushed a law through the Assembly that almost entirely abolished the legislative process designated in the Venezuelan Constitution. In cases where Maduro needs the Assembly to pass legislation, he has amassed significant support by expelling legislators who disagree with him, like Assemblywoman María Corina Machado, who was expelled and attacked with tear gas for visiting Washington, D.C., to raise awareness of the Maduro regime’s human rights violations.
Opposition leaders are accusing Maduro of capitalizing on the sanctions to expand his already prodigious executive power. “The government is taking advantage of the situation with the United States to push through an enabling law that they were already planning on demanding,” said Elías Mata, an opposition legislator not yet expelled from the National Assembly. He added, “I have no doubt the government seeks these special powers because they fear losing the [next] elections.”