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Venezuela Military Seizes Major Ports as Economic Crisis Deepens

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro (R) speaks with Venezuela's Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez, during his weekly broadcast "En contacto con Maduro" (In contact with Maduro) in Caracas, Venezuela, July 12, 2016.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday greatly expanded the duties of his military chief General Vladimir Padrino to make him responsible for the distribution of food and medicine and put the military in charge of overseeing five of the country’s major ports.

As the crisis-plagued country slides deeper into an economic crisis, Maduro created a new campaign to root out the corruption and mismanagement that has caused Venezuela to run out of many basic goods.

Maduro put Army Gen. Efrain Velasco in charge of the port authority, which will directly oversee five of the country’s main ports at Guanta, La Guaira, Puerto Cabello, Maracaibo and Guamache.

As protests over food rationing and long lines at stores occur with increasing regularity, Padrino said he hopes that putting the military in charge of distribution will help calm some of the unrest and looting. But hd warned that he does not want to militarize the country.

“It's not about militarizing,” he said Tuesday. “I don't like to see military intervention in areas that aren't of military nature, but this is a question of national security and defense of the fatherland.”

Venezuela’s already precarious financial situation took another significant hit this week when U.S.-based home goods producer Kimberly-Clark announced that it would close its factory in Venezuela, and Citibank moved to close the country’s overseas payment accounts.

Maduro’s government took over the former Kimberly-Clark facility on Monday and turned it over to its workers, vowing to move Venezuela forward, “With Kimberly or without.”

“Nobody stops Venezuela,” he said during a televised speech Monday.