Venezuela's president Nicolas Maduro accused of committing coup

Opposition lawmakers pass resolution declaring 'breakdown of constitutional order' and 'coup d'etat committed by Nicolas Maduro regime'

Samuel Osborne
Monday 24 October 2016 10:16
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Opposition deputy Luis Silva holds a banner against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, that says "Maduro dictator" during the debate in the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, on 23 October, 2016
Opposition deputy Luis Silva holds a banner against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, that says "Maduro dictator" during the debate in the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, on 23 October, 2016

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government has committed a coup d'etat by blocking a referendum on removing him from power, the country's opposition-majority legislature has declared.

Opposition lawmakers have vowed mass protesters and international pressure over the electoral authorities' decision to suspend the process of organising a vote to recall the unpopular leftist president.

They passed a resolution declaring "the breakdown of constitutional order" and "a coup d'etat committed by the Nicolas Maduro regime".

Protests begin in Venezuela

The largely symbolic measure came during an emergency session which briefly descended into chaos when a group of Maduro supporters forced its way past security guards and burst into the National Assembly, causing lawmakers to halt proceedings for 45 minutes.

Legislators then called on Venezuelans to "actively defend" the constitution.

"An ongoing coup d'etat has been perpetrated in Venezuela, culminating in the decision to rob us of a recall referendum. We're here to officially declare the regrettable and painful rupture of constitutional order," said majority leader Julio Borges of the center-right opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD).

Holding a recall referendum - a right guaranteed under Venezuela's constitution - was the opposition's main strategy to get rid of the man they accuse of driving the once-booming country to the brink of collapse.

However, the National Electoral Council (CNE) indefinitely suspended the process after criminal courts in five states ruled the opposition had committed fraud in an initial petition drive.

Pro-Maduro lawmakers accused the opposition itself of seeking to stage a coup.

"Don't try to take advantage of these hard times to finish off our nation," deputy Earle Herrera said.

Mr Maduro, the political heir to late president Hugo Chavez (1999-2013), derides his opponents as elitists and calls the economic crisis a capitalist conspiracy.

He accuses the "fascist right" and the United States of plotting to overthrow him.

In recession since the beginning of 2014, Venezuela's economy is facing a contraction of 10 per cent this year and inflation of 475 percent, with the International Monetary Fund predicting a rise to 1,660 percent next year.

A recent poll found more than 75 per cent of Venezuelans disapprove of the socialist leader.

Additional reporting by AFP

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