CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles Wednesday urged supporters to take to the streets Saturday to oppose President Nicolas Maduro's emergency powers.
"I am calling on all Venezuelans who are suffering in this crisis to come out [to rally Saturday], and everyone who feels that the government is going to destroy our nation," said Capriles.
"Maduro, we are going to show you the power that the Venezuelan people have," warned Capriles, the Miranda state governor who refused to concede defeat to Maduro in April's presidential election.
"Let's see if with your special powers law, all of a sudden we have enough food, milk, toilet paper, chicken, beef — and let's see if our streets are safe," Capriles added, insisting: "This is the moment for us to rise up in force, the moment to make a massive statement."
Venezuela's National Assembly on Tuesday handed Maduro wide-ranging special powers to rule by decree for one year.
The socialist president of the OPEC member state says he needs the greater personal power as his government struggles with soaring inflation and shortages of basic goods.
Maduro requested the special powers last month, citing the need to fight corruption and take on opponents who are waging "economic warfare" against his government.
Maduro, 50, has said he will use the expanded powers to impose caps on private sector profits and crack down on speculators.
The vote is the latest move by the elected Venezuelan leader, a protégé of late president Hugo Chavez, to strengthen his hand as he faces an important political test in municipal elections next month.
Critics however blame Venezuela's economic woes on the government-imposed fixed exchange rate and price controls, saying they have led to a lack of basic goods such as toilet paper, rice and meat.
Venezuela has been battered by a 54 percent rate of inflation, a shortage of hard currency, and widespread shortages.
The United States earlier voiced concern after Maduro was given emergency powers to rule by decree.
"We are concerned that the Venezuelan National Assembly has granted decree powers to President Maduro for the next 12 months," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
"We believe the separation of powers and the presence of independent branches of government are essential elements of democracy," she told reporters.
© AFP 2014