CARACAS, , (Pakistan Point News - APP - 16th Jan, 2017 ) - Venezuela's leader Nicolas Maduro angered his opponents Sunday by refusing to face them for his annual presidential address, fanning tensions as he renewed his emergency powers in a volatile crisis. His decision to give the speech in the pro-Maduro Supreme Court instead of the legislature aggravated a political standoff in the oil-exporting country. Delivering it inside the court building, he confirmed the depth of Venezuela's economic troubles.
Maduro said income from the country's crucial oil exports plunged from more than $48 billion in 2008 to just $5.3 billion last year. That has meant less money to fund the social welfare model championed by Maduro and his late predecessor Hugo Chavez. "This revenue model has become unviable," Maduro admitted. - 'Unconstitutional' - ====================== Maduro's appearance in the Supreme Court was a snub to his rivals in the National Assembly legislature where the speech is supposed to take place.
The new opposition speaker of the assembly, Julio Borges, told reporters Maduro was violating the constitution, which says the address must be delivered in the assembly. Maduro considers the assembly illegitimate because the Supreme Court has disqualified some of its opposition members. The court has consistently ruled in Maduro's favor against the assembly since the opposition majority took over a year ago. - Long, hard year - =================== The opposition MUD coalition blames Maduro for an economic crisis that has prompted deadly riots and looting due to shortages of food and medicine.
It wants a popular vote on removing him from office. Maduro denies he is to blame, saying the crisis is the result of a US-backed capitalist conspiracy. His speech on Sunday reviewed a year that saw Venezuela's economic woes deepen. The year 2016 was "the longest and hardest" for his government since it took office after Chavez's death in 2013, he said. Falling prices for Venezuela's crucial oil exports have aggravated the economic crisis, which has forced people to queue for hours to buy rations.