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Venezuela's opposition clears hurdle to recall Maduro

August 2, 2016

Venezuela's opposition has gained enough signatures to advance a complicated recall process to remove President Nicolas Maduro. The country's economy is in freefall.

Venezuela Wahlen Tibisay Lucena
Image: Reuters/C. G. Rawlins

Venezuela's opposition collected enough signatures to advance to the next phase of a process to recall Socialist President Nicolas Maduro in a referendum, the electoral commission said Monday, but the opposition still faces an uphill battle.

The head of the National Electoral Council (CNE), Tibisay Lucena (pictured), said the opposition had passed a one percent threshold - or 200,000 voter signatures -- to move to the second phase of an effort to recall Maduro.

She did not, however, provide a date for the next phase of the complicated recall process, which would require the opposition to gather signatures from 20 percent of voters - or 4 million people - within three days. Only then would an actual recall vote take place.

The Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), a coalition of opposition parties that controls congress, wants to recall Maduro, who they blame for an economic crisis in the country, food shortages and spiraling inflation.

A recent poll suggested 64 percent of Venezuelans would vote to remove Maduro.

The president still has a number of judicial maneuvers available to prevent or stall a referendum.

Maduro's allies have filed some 8,000 legal challenges to the referendum and want to ban the MUD for alleged fraud. They may be helped by the electoral commission's finding that a small number of signatures had been falsified.

Time is also on the Socialist's side.

If a referendum were held this year and Maduro loses, that would trigger a new presidential election to 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.

US Secretary of State John Kerry also urged Venezuela on Monday to let the "process to go forward in a timely and a fair manner, and not to play a game of delay."

cw/bw (AFP, Reuters)