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World

Venezuela Opposition Picks Strategy to Oust President

The coalition of more than a dozen mostly centrist political parties reached the agreement on strategy after a long day of meetings Wednesday

Venezuela Congress Supreme Court
2 years ago

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela’s opposition coalition has decided on a triple-barreled strategy to oust President Nicolás Maduro before the end of his term.

The opposition will simultaneously pursue a constitutional amendment, a recall referendum and a campaign to push for the resignation of the embattled socialist president, said opposition leader Americo De Grazia.

The coalition of more than a dozen mostly centrist political parties reached the agreement on strategy after a long day of meetings Wednesday.

We can’t commit suicide by having just one card in our hand. Common political sense tells us we need to pursue several strategies”

— Americo De Grazia, opposition leader

Coalition spokesman Jesus Torrealba was expected to officially announce the plan on Thursday.

Maduro’s six-year-term ends in 2019. The opposition won a landslide victory in legislative elections in December, and promised to find a way to remove Maduro from power within the first half of 2016.

The opposition has for years been riven by internal division and several factions have been advocating different strategies for getting rid of Maduro. All have potential downsides.

One plan is to seek a constitutional amendment cutting presidential terms from six to four years, effectively ending Maduro’s term

But many fear that would be overturned by the Supreme Court, which has never ruled against the executive branch since Maduro’s mentor, Hugo Chávez, won the presidency in 1999.

Last month, the court overturned the one decision Congress has made since being sworn in — a vote to deny Maduro emergency powers to deal with the economy.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court banned Congress from investigating the government’s rushed appointment of 13 high court justices last year, which critics saw as an attempt to pack the court with government supporters.

A recall referendum is no sure thing either, though Maduro’s approval ratings have languished in the 20 percent range for most of his term. The opposition would need to gather nearly 4 million signatures to trigger the recall process. If a vote is called, winning a simple majority will not be enough. The opposition would need to surpass the number of votes Maduro won in 2013.

Maduro already has repeatedly dismissed calls for his resignation, accusing critics of purposely sowing economic chaos to destabilize his administration.

Venezuela is grappling with chronic shortages, a deep recession, and widespread fears the country will default on its debt. The International Monetary Fund predicts inflation, already the world’s highest, will more than double in 2016, reaching 720 percent.

FABIOLA SANCHEZ

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