Venezuela suspends opposition’s recall drive against Maduro


Venezuela’s electoral officials have suspended a recall referendum campaign against President Nicolas Maduro, in a setback for the opposition which has been pushing to prevent the embattled leader from finishing out his term.

In a Thursday statement, the National Electoral Council said fraud allegations in the opposition’s preliminary signature gathering were behind its decision to stop it from moving on to the next stage of the recall referendum push.

The announcement came in reaction to rulings earlier in the day by courts in four Venezuelan states that found the initial stage of the opposition’s petition drive had been fraudulent.

During that phase, the Venezuelan opposition had gathered signatures from one percent of the electorate.

The next stage, which was scheduled to begin next week, would see Venezuelans sign petitions calling for the removal of Maduro from office before the official expiry of his term in 2017.

The opposition needed to collect and validate around four million signatures from 20 percent of the electorate in 24 states over three days next week.

“In adherence to the constitution, the National Electoral Council abides by the decisions ordered by the tribunals and has sent instructions to postpone the process of signature gathering until new judicial instructions are known,” the statement said.

The electoral board’s new decision went against its August verdict that authenticated the signatures and allowed the opposition’s push to proceed.

The opposition was quick to slam the ruling as unconstitutional.

“We alert the diplomatic corps in our country that the government today is pushing toward a very dangerous scenario,” former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles said on Twitter.

Maduro’s rivals had pledged to press for a recall vote against him this year. The referendum, if successful, would set the stage for new presidential elections in the country.

Venezuela’s electoral authority had already said there would be no such vote this year. It said in a Wednesday statement that “the event could be held in the middle of the first quarter of 2017.”

The Venezuelan opposition blames the president’s “dictatorial tactics” for the severe economic crisis plaguing the South American country.

Maduro, however, rejects the accusations, saying the opposition, backed by the US, has launched an economic war against the country in an attempt to bring about a coup d’état against his Socialist administration.


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