United States intelligence officials said a crisis in Venezuela is "imminent" after President Nicolas Maduro extended a national state of emergency by 60 days. The move comes as Maduro attempts to hold onto power in the face of an opposition-led call for a recall election. Maduro also blamed the U.S. for inciting a coup, as he vowed to see his term as president through to its scheduled end in 2019. U.S. officials stated that it was unlikely Maduro would complete the term as the country faces massive inflation and shortages of goods.
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CARACAS, Venezuela, May 15 (UPI) -- Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro extended a state of emergency in the country for an additional 60 days in an apparent attempt to hold onto power under the threat of a recall election.
According to CNN, Maduro addressed the nation amid protests in order to declare a "constitutional state of emergency...to tend to our country and more importantly to prepare to denounce, neutralize and overcome the external and foreign aggressions against our country."
In addition to extending the state of emergency through July, Maduro called for military exercises to prepare for "any scenario" including foreign invasion.
The country faces massive inflation, expected to reach 700% within this year, as well as shortages of food and other goods.
U.S. intelligence officials reported they believe a crisis in the country is "imminent."
"This is really not the case that the U.S. is rooting for any outcome other than there not be an economic meltdown or social violence," one official said. "There are reasons for concern that over the summer as Venezuela gives importance to payments on debt over imports that these events could spiral."
While Maduro vowed to complete his term, which is set to end in 2019, U.S. officials said such a scenario seemed unlikely even if he managed to prevent a recall election demanded by opposition protestors.
Maduro addressed the threats to his power, claiming the United States was actively promoting a coup to have him removed from office.
"Washington is activating measures at the request of Venezuela's fascist right, who are emboldened by the coup in Brazil," he said. "We have already seen the image of the oligarchy signing and removing power to the people."
Meanwhile, reports have emerged of citizens stealing basic necessities such as flour, chicken and underwear as the country's hydroelectric power output has faced outages due to sever droughts.
The capital city of Caracas has also become a hotbed of violence as protests rage both against and in favor of Maduro.
"You can hear the ice cracking. You know there's a crisis coming. Our pressure on this isn't going to resolve this issue," one U.S. official said.