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Venezuelan opposition preparing referendum to oust Maduro

CARACAS, Venezuela, March 29 (UPI) — The Venezuelan opposition is not backing down in its efforts to create a recall referendum that would ask voters if President Nicolas Maduro should be removed from office.

When the Democratic Unity Roundtable, or MUD, opposition coalition seized control of Venezuela’s unicameral National Assembly in January, the coalition announced it would seek to oust Maduro within months. The proposal has deteriorated discourse between Maduro’s ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela, or PSUV, and the MUD.

National Assembly member Juan Pablo Guanipa, who represents the state of Zulia, on Tuesday reaffirmed his coalition’s commitment to activate a constitutional mechanism that would remove Maduro from power.

The MUD parliamentary victory in December was the first major loss for the socialist movement in Venezuela established by late former President Hugo Chávez.

Guanipa said the proposed recall referendum would be the “the most appropriate mechanism” to oust Maduro, adding that asking for Maduro’s resignation would be “naive.”

“Solutions must be constitutional,” Guanipa said in an interview with Globovisión. “We will fight for the country that we have sought and is deserved by all Venezuelans.”

Maduro’s approval ratings are often below 30 percent and critics blame the PSUV for Venezuela’s economic failures. The PSUV, in turn, blames “economic warfare” waged by foreign actors, particularly the United States, and the opposition for the country’s economic woes. Sharp drops in oil prices have added to Venezuela’s troubles.

Guanipa said the coalition will initiate an “urgent mobilization” to offer the recall proposal to Venezuela’s National Electoral Council.

“The national government should be an actor to achieve the greatest sum of happiness possible, and what has been achieved is a disgrace,” Guanipa said.

The Venezuelan Constitution declares a recall referendum can be held once the president has served half a term and at least 20 percent of registered voters sign a petition.

The hostility between parties led Pope Francis on Easter Sunday to urge for peace and dialogue in Venezuela.

Francis said Jesus’ message of love should be “projected increasingly on the Venezuelan people, under the difficult conditions in which they live, as well as those who have in their hands the fate of the country, so that they work toward the common good, seeking forms of dialogue and collaboration among all.”

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