CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela's government slammed the Obama administration's decision to extend for a second year an executive order declaring a national emergency in the crisis-wracked South American nation.
Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said Friday's executive order by the White House cements Obama's legacy of "hatred" toward Venezuela and constituted a "grave violation of international law"
"This only makes sense considering the arrogance and imperial irrationality that has characterized" Obama, Rodriguez said in a message on Twitter.
Obama in March 2015 declared a "national emergency" in Venezuela as a prelude to slapping sanctions on seven officials who cracked down and jailed anti-government protesters during a wave of unrest blamed for more than 40 deaths.
In extending the executive order for a year, Obama said the human rights situation in Venezuela, including press freedom and arbitrary arrests of opponents, hadn't improved while corruption was worsening.
In the past week, President Nicolas Maduro's government jailed three hardline opposition activists and opened a probe against two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles that could result in his being banned from holding public office.
The arrests come as a fledgling "anti-coup" unit inside the government targets what it calls renewed attempts to destabilize the country after the opposition-controlled legislature declared that Maduro had abandoned his job by neglecting his duties.
While lawmakers' resolution was largely symbolic, and has already been shot down by the government-stacked Supreme Court, it would seem to drive a nail in the coffin of a Vatican-sponsored mediation attempt to avoid violence in the deeply-polarized country at a time of triple-digit inflation and widespread food shortages.
Opposition leaders have said they won't participate in talks unless the government releases more than 100 political prisoners, and some hardliners are already calling for mass street protests.
On Saturday Maduro and senior officials oversaw military exercises by land, sea and air to dissuade what it sees as a U.S.-backed plot to overthrow his socialist government.
The government said more than 76,000 troops and 500,000 civilians participated in the drills taking place across the country since Friday.
"From here we are alerting the American imperialists that we are a threat because we want peace, we're socialists, we're revolutionary and we're Chavistas," powerful socialist leader Diosdado Cabello told militants gathered at a military base in Caracas. "You, Obama, with your Nobel Peace Prize has taken war to every corner of the earth."
AP Writer Joshua Goodman contributed to this report from Bogota, Colombia.