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Venezuela parliament seeks to push ahead with Maduro trial

29 October 2016

As well as Friday's strike, the opposition is carrying out a political trial of Maduro in the National Assembly and is vowing to march to the Miraflores presidential palace next week.

"After so much pain, so much hunger and injustice, let the street speak and let the street speak in peace, with people and with strength", she said on Twitter during the demonstration.

The head of the opposition in the legislature, Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) head Jesús Torrealba, confirmed that lawmakers were unable to get into the building Thursday morning, nor did it appear that they would have electricity if they did. "Maduro is not leaving!" several thousand supporters chanted at the government rally. Officials said that a police officer was shot and killed and two others were injured on the Pan-American Highway southwest of Caracas. There are reports at least three were shot.

Enraged by last week's suspension of their push for a referendum to remove Maduro and determined to end 17 years of socialism in the South American OPEC nation, Venezuela's opposition has sharply ramped up its tactics in recent days.

"The socialist president and centre-right-dominated opposition accuse each other of mounting a 'coup" in a volatile country rich in oil but short of food.

Clashes at anti-government protests in 2014 left 43 people dead.

The opposition's vow to march on the palace next week further hardened the tone of the power struggle.

"We are going to look for the big company owners, the leaders of (business group) Fedecamaras if they insist on a coup d'etat like in 2002", said Diosdado Cabello, the ruling Socialist Party's second in command, recalling a short-lived putsch against Maduro's predecessor Hugo Chavez. Maduro for his part called a meeting yesterday of his National Defence Council.

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Maduro called on his own supporters to mobilise to "defeat the parliamentary coup". The opposition blames his economic management.

Some stores and schools were closed and rush-hour traffic was noticeably lighter Friday as many residents in Venezuela's capital stayed home to express their outrage at President Nicolas Maduro. The opposition, which controls the National Assembly, accuses Venezuela's institutions of making decisions to keep Maduro's socialist regime in power, while Maduro's regime accuses the opposition of undermining democracy by working with pro-capitalist companies and worldwide actors, including the United States, to destabilize his government and the economy.

National Assembly head Henry Ramos, a veteran politician who swaps insults with Maduro nearly daily, declined an invitation to attend.

The 12-hour work stoppage came as the opposition stepped up its campaign to force the embattled socialist from office after electoral authorities canceled a recall referendum seeking his removal.

"We are working with other governments in the region on this issue to create greater political space in Venezuela and call on the Venezuelan government to live up to the hemisphere's shared commitment to democracy, as articulated in the OAS Charter, the Inter-American Democratic Charter and its obligations and commitments related to democracy and human rights", said the spokesperson, whose name can not be used publicly because of administration policy.

The opposition leaders, who hold a majority in the National Assembly, said there were power cuts in the legislative palace early on Thursday and that they had to depend on a backup generator.

But the MUD, which tends to the center-right, is a fractious coalition united mainly by shared hatred of Maduro.