Fifteen members of the Organization of American States have called for the presidential recall referendum in Venezuela to move forward. The leader of the opposition has called Venezuela a "powder keg."
Venezuela should move forward "without delay" on the opposition-backed recall of President Nicolas Maduro, a group of 15 countries urged on Thursday.
The countries, all members of the Organization of American States, said in a joint statement that a complex recall process should "be pursued clearly, concretely and without delay, and thus contribute to the quick and effective resolution of the current political, economic and social difficulties in the country."
The opposition has been pushing for a recall vote this year, but earlier this week the National Electoral Council announced that a preliminary step to collect 4 million petition signatures probably wouldn't take place until at least October. Then it would take another 90 days to confirm signatures and schedule a referendum.
The timing is important because, if Maduro were to lose a referendum held before January 10, it would trigger a new presidential election that could end 17 years of Socialist rule.
However, if Maduro were to lose a referendum next year, then he would be replaced by his hand-picked Socialist vice president, who would keep the party in power until the next election scheduled for the end of 2018.
The opposition, which won legislative elections in December, is pushing for the referendum to move forward as quickly as possible and has accused the electoral commission of dragging its feet.
A recent poll suggested 64 percent of Venezuelans would vote to remove Maduro, who the opposition accuses of mishandling the economy.
The head of the opposition coalition, Jesus Torrealba, warned on Wednesday the country's economic and political crisis was "powder keg" waiting to explode.
"We are going to see change not because the government allows it or the opposition promotes it but because the situation is not sustainable," he said in an interview with Reuters on Wednesday.
Venezuela is in a deep economic crisis, with widespread shortages of food and basic services that threatens social stability.
cw/rc (AFP, Reuters)