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Venezuela

Maduro rejects elections as Venezuelan crisis deepens

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has rejected opposition demands for early elections or a referendum. Both sides have agreed to resume talks on December 6 to end the ongoing political and economic crisis.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Sunday rejected early elections or a referendum on his leadership as demanded by the opposition, a day after the two sides reached a road map to find a way out of a dual political and economic crisis.

"An electoral way out? Way out to where?" he said on his weekly television program. "Nobody should get obsessed with electoral processes that are not in the constitution."

On Saturday, Maduro's Socialist government and the opposition alliance Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) agreed to resume Vatican-mediated talks on December 6 to find a way out of a crisis that has the country reeling toward potential civil war and social breakdown.

In a joint statement, the two sides said they "solemnly agree that our political differences can only be settled strictly within the framework of the constitution, and along a democratic, peaceful and electoral path." 

But the statement did not lay out any specifics for an election, apart from agreeing to new elections for legislators in the state of Amazonas who were suspended from their posts by a court sentence last year.

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The road map also pledged the two sides to "work together" on adding two seats to the National Electoral Council, which the opposition claims is stacked with Maduro loyalists. Earlier this year, the electoral body and pro-Maduro Supreme Court rejected an opposition effort to get a recall referendum, plunging the country further into political deadlock.

Carlos Ocariz, a MUD negotiator, told the Agence France-Presse on Saturday the coalition would continue dialogue "until it obtains the most important thing: national elections and a recall referendum."

Maduro appeared to mock that statement on Sunday, saying "it makes me very happy" the opposition will continue dialogue until his term runs out in December 2018. Earlier in the day, Maduro extended by two months a national and economic emergency decree that grants him special powers.

Oil-rich Venezuela has gone down a steady downward spiral that has analysts worried the country could tear itself apart. Access to basic goods has dried up and streets are plagued by violent crime, riots and looting.  

cw/cmk (AFP, dpa)

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