Venezuela's Maduro says will win in 'economic war' post-election

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro said on Wednesday he intended to defeat the “oligarchs” responsible for the country’s crisis and that he would win the “economic war” they are waging against the once-wealthy country should he be re-elected next week.

FILE PHOTO: Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during his meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela May 7, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

The unpopular president, who is seeking a second term in office despite an economic and social explosion in the OPEC country, blamed “criminal mafias” for hyperinflation and recession at a campaign rally.

Despite millions suffering food and medicine shortages, Maduro is expected to win in next week’s vote due to widespread abstention.

“If you hand me victory on May 20, I swear I will end the economic war,” said Maduro in front of hundreds of people who attended a Socialist Party event in the center of the country.

“You’ll get your comeuppance in a week’s time,” he said pointedly to critics.

He accused the business community of raising prices in recent days in order to create more discontent among voters.

The county’s opposition National Assembly puts annual inflation at more than 13,000 percent in the year to April. Critics blame strict price and currency controls for the mess.

Maduro threatened stronger measures, while government officials visited pharmacies and supermarkets in Caracas to sanction vendors for selling at high prices.

Last week, the government took over the country’s largest private bank and arrested 11 top executives, as part of an operation that seeks to curb black market foreign exchange trades.

The primary opposition parties are boycotting the election, calling it a sham.

U.S. Vice President echoed their words earlier this week and called on the Organization of American States to suspend Venezuela’s membership.

Reporting by Deisy BuitragoWriting by Corina Pons and Girish Gupta; Editing by Richard Chang