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Venezuelan opposition tells military that it's time to choose

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles has openly called on Venezuela's military to choose between the constitution and President Nicolas Maduro, ratcheting up a showdown as the economy in the oil-rich country is imploding.

Opponents to the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro demonstrate in front of a line of riot police in Caracas on May 11, 2016.
Federico Parra | AFP | Getty Images
Opponents to the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro demonstrate in front of a line of riot police in Caracas on May 11, 2016.

The BBC reported Wednesday that Capriles accused Maduro of "putting himself above the constitution" by imposing emergency powers. "I tell the armed forces: The hour of truth is coming, to decide whether you are with the constitution or with Maduro," Capriles said.

Maduro last week declared a 60-day state of emergency that gives the military greater powers, ostensibly so it can deal with the country's spiraling economic crisis. The National Assembly, which is led by Venezuela's political opposition, voted late Tuesday to reject Maduro's decree.

Maduro responded by saying he would ignore the Assembly's decision. He said the Assembly had lost is "political validity," and he predicted its disappearance, according to the BBC's account.

Maduro regularly characterizes his opponents as fascists, insisting that they operate under the influence of the United States government and shadowy international media.

Regular Venezuelans face shortages of even basic consumer goods, and the national currency has collapsed. The IMF predicted earlier this year that Venezuela's inflation rate will rise to 720 percent in 2016.

The consensus among most observers is that Venezuela's economy was undone by the policies of Maduro's mentor, the late Hugo Chavez, coupled with the more recent collapse in global oil prices.

Chavez relied heavily on the country's state-dominated oil industry to generate revenue that he then spent lavishly on social programs and consumer subsidies. Chavez died in 2013.