Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has declared a 60-day state of emergency. The move came Friday night in response to what he claimed were domestic and U.S.-based plots to subvert him, and followed efforts by opposition lawmakers to raise a recall referendum against Maduro’s administration.
Protests in the country are gaining traction as nearly 70 percent of the population calls for Maduro’s ouster. The president was the hand-picked successor to the late president Hugo Chavez, who died of cancer while running for re-election.
Chavez was a close friend of former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the two men cemented ties between their two nations while severing Venezuela’s ties with Israel. Venezuela has the largest oil reservoir in the western hemisphere.
After the partition of Israel was approved by the United Nations in 1947, more than 200 homes, shops and synagogues were destroyed in Venezuela, according to an article written by Rachelley Krygier, who wrote in June 2014 in the Caracas Chronicle about her mother’s family’s immigration experience when they arrived from Aleppo, Syria. Her father’s family, fleeing Cuba, also came to Venezuela.
“None of them could have foreseen what came next. The country was completely transformed from a refuge into a hostile, threatening place,” she wrote. Between 1990 to 2011, the Jewish community of Venezuela shrank from 25,000 to 9,000.
“Signs of anti-Semitism in the government became evident in 2009, when Chavez condemned the state of Israel, expelled the Israeli ambassador and conducted meetings with Iran’s Ahjmadinejad. Our Holocaust survivors saw in the news how our president shook hands with a leader who denied what they and their loved ones had gone through,” Krygier wrote.
Meanwhile, on Saturday Maduro ordered military exercises for next weekend, vowing the government would take over idle factories. He did not provide details. Opposition lawmakers continued to lead protests.
“We’re talking about a desperate president who is putting himself on the margin of legality and constitutionality,” Democratic Unity coalition leader Jesus Torrealba told hundreds of supporters at a rally, according to Reuters.
“If this state of emergency is issued without consulting the National Assembly, we would technically be talking about a self-coup.”
Control over Venezuela’s National Assembly was won by the opposition in a December election that was fueled by voter anger over skyrocketing inflation, product shortages and crime, but the lawmakers have been consistently undercut by the country’s Supreme Court.