Critics press for progress on presidential recall
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP):
Venezuela's socialist government is digging in its heels to stop a presidential recall vote as it fights to hold on to power amid an economic collapse.
The pro-government elections board missed its own Monday deadline to certify signatures on a petition demanding the start of a recall process. And now government supporters have lodged an official complaint with elections officials saying the opposition coalition should be disqualified as a political party.
Socialist party leader Jorge Rodriguez said the opposition falsified names during the first round of signature-gathering for the recall.
Critics of President Nicolas Maduro called for a march through Caracas yesterday to demand the recall process go forward. Police in riot gear were out in force to block protesters' path to the elections headquarters.
Elections officials called the planned march an act of intimidation, and said they would not take any more steps in the recall process until next week.
"They're playing with the patience of the Venezuelan people," said opposition leader Henrique Capriles.
If a recall vote succeeds this year, Venezuela would see new presidential elections. If it's delayed until 2017, Maduro would simply be replaced by his vice-president. Opponents say officials are stretching out a process that should take weeks to fill an entire year.
Maduro has consistently said the recall will not happen this year.