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Maduro: opposition legislature set to ‘disappear’

Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro speaks during a press conference at the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas yesterday. Maduro accused the United States of sabotage plans against Venezuela, saying they aim to create a scenario of violence to justify a foreign military intervention to remove him from power.

At the weekend, president declared a 60-day state of emergency to sidestep parliament

CARACAS — President Nicolás Maduro predicted yesterday the imminent demise of Venezuela’s opposition-led parliament, amid an acrimonious conflict of powers that is delaying solutions to its economic crisis.

“I don’t expect anything good from Congress. The National Assembly has lost political validity. It’s a matter of time before it disappears, because it doesn’t represent our national interests,” Maduro told reporters.

The 53-year-old socialist leader did not specify further on what could happen to the legislature, although last month he threatened a constitutional amendment to cut its five-year term.

Capitalizing on public anger over the economic mess, the opposition coalition won control of the National Assembly in a December vote and is pushing for a referendum to oust Maduro, the unpopular successor to the late Hugo Chávez.

But ruling Socialist Party officials say there is no time to organize such a vote this year, and the government-leaning Election Board is dragging its feet on paperwork.

Furthermore, the Supreme Court has overturned most of the assembly’s new laws, prompting opposition accusations that Maduro has become a dictator backed by stooge institutions.

“What will happen if they block the democratic route?” asked opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who is championing the push for a referendum.

“We don’t want a social explosion in Venezuela nor a military solution,” he added.

The opposition is organizing nationwide protests for today. Marches last week turned violent, with soldiers using tear gas against stone-throwing youths and one official pepper-spraying Capriles.

Street protests and looting are becoming more common around the country, as Venezuelans grow wearier and angrier at food shortages, power and water cuts, and inflation that is the highest in the world.

At the weekend, Maduro declared a 60-day state of emergency, widening his powers to sidestep the legislature, intervene in the economy and control the streets, because of what he called US and domestic plots against him.

“I call on the country to not recognize this decree that puts Maduro above the constitution,” Capriles said.

He added that the measures overrides international treatizes and the Organization of American States (OAS) Inter-American Democratic Charter.

“This decree allows for anything. If Maduro wants to enforce it let him start preparing war aircraft and send in the tanks to the streets because he will have to impose it by force,” Capriles said, urging the armed forces to state whether they are supporting the Constitution, or Maduro. He also called the people to a “non-violent resistance.”

Capriles is expected to lead a march through the streets of Caracas today to support calls for a voter referendum on whether to oust Maduro from office.

He is a two-time presidential candidate. In 2013 he was defeated by Maduro by a tight margin.

The opposition has filed a petition with enough signatures to authorize conducting a broader petition drive on holding a recall referendum.

But yesterday Maduro called that initiative “optional.” He went on to accuse the opposition of working with the US to orchestrate a coup against him. And we urged Maduro — who is also governor of the state of Miranda — “to control his hormones.”

A majority of voters tell pollsters they want to see Maduro gone. They handed the opposition a landslide victory in congressional elections in December, but state institutions have blocked the opposition-controlled Congress from passing any legislation.

Herald with AP, Reuters

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