Petition of 1.5 mn counted for Maduro’s removal
Venezuela’s opposition forces on Saturday said electoral authorities have tallied 1.5 million signatures seeking to force President Nicolas Maduro from power with a recall referendum.
Oil-dependent Venezuela has descended ever deeper into economic turmoil as global crude prices have collapsed, triggering food shortages, rampant inflation and now an electricity crisis.
The center-right opposition, which won control of the legislature in elections last December, is seeking to organize a recall referendum to cut short Maduro’s term.
“As of today (Saturday) we already have National Electoral Council verification of 1,567,310 signatures. That is almost eight times the minimum needed” to force the vote, opposition lawmaker Carlos Ocariz said on Twitter.
The opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) on Monday delivered 1.85 million of a total of 2.5 million signatures it says it collected. The number needed to force a vote was 195,721.
Maduro has said he would allow a referendum if the petition is validated. But his side looks likely to put roadblocks in the way.
The man Maduro appointed to oversee verification of the petition, former CNE president Jorge Rodriguez, indicated he was already sure that many of the signatures were invalid.
Under Venezuela’s constitution, after January 10, 2017, a successful recall vote would transfer power to Maduro’s vice president rather than trigger new elections.
The MUD is racing to hold a recall referendum before the end of the year.
MUD leader Jesus Torrealba said the “electoral council leadership is intentionally delaying completion of the count” by blocking opposition lawmakers from entering places where some remaining signatures are being held.
Venezuela, which has the world’s largest proven oil reserves, has plunged into economic chaos as global crude prices have collapsed.
The opposition blames Maduro for the economic crisis, which has Venezuelans queuing for hours to buy rations of food and basic goods such as toilet paper.
Separately, Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez slammed Argentine President Mauricio Macri for allegedly meddling in Venezuela’s domestic affairs by urging Maduro to talk to opposition members and work on a “transition.”
“In just three months in office, he has taken our beloved Argentina down the path toward social and economic destruction,” she said, charging that Marci was doing the bidding of the United States.