Venezuelan gov't, opposition hold marches as political tension grows

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, October 27, 2016
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Government and opposition supporters held dueling marches in Venezuela on Wednesday after the recall referendum process against President Nicolas Maduro was suspended.

Protests were staged across the country but the main ones took place in Caracas, with leaders of the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) greeting their supporters.

Maduro addressed the demonstrators outside his presidential palace and said he was willing to talk to the opposition "to protect peace."

"We want dialogue as we want stability, but they do not want dialogue because they want a coup and foreign intervention. Here, in Venezuela, there will be neither...this is why we need people in the street," said the head of state.

After activating the Defense Council to seek solutions to the country's crisis, Maduro denounced the right-wing MUD, saying it was "desperate and has received orders from the empire to end the revolution."

Maduro called on MUD members to leave behind "hate and intolerance".

MUD supporters scolded the decision of the National Electoral Council (CNE) to suspend the recall referendum process, saying it favored Maduro.

In May, the MUD collected signatures from over 1 percent of the electorate, one of the early steps needed for a referendum.

The MUD had been set to launch a three-day operation on Oct. 26-28 to gather signatures from 20 percent of the electorate, a step that would trigger a recall referendum against Maduro.

However, on Oct. 20, the courts in five states -- Aragua, Carabobo, Monagas, Apure and Bolivar -- said irregularities had been found at a previous stage of the referendum process.

The five states said that a number of cases of identity theft had been found among the signatures submitted, leading the CNE to suspend the process.

On Wednesday, MUD Executive Secretary Jesus Torrealba announced a general strike on Oct. 28 that will last from 6 a.m. (0330 GMT) to 6 p.m. (1530 GMT).

Torrealba also told supporters that the MUD would give a week for the CNE to reactivate the referendum process. If not, a march will be held at the presidential palace on Nov. 3.

On Tuesday, the MUD announced it would open a political trial against Maduro, summoning him to appear before the National Assembly on Nov. 1.

The opposition is also set to hold a legislative session in the National Assembly on Thursday to consider Maduro's removal from office.

Despite their grave rifts, the two sides are set to begin a round of dialogue on Oct. 30, with the presence of mediators from the Vatican and the Union of South American Nations. Endi

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