Since the opposition took control of Venezuela’s parliament in elections in late 2015, it has been trying to force Socialist President Nicolas Maduro out of office, but has run into stiff institutional resistance.
These are the main ways Maduro’s opponents are trying to end his term early:
– Forced resignation –
On March 8, 2016, the opposition coalition, known by its Spanish acronym MUD, announced a multi-track strategy of organizing protests to force Maduro to step down, amending the constitution to shorten his five-year term and pushing for a recall referendum on whether he should quit.
The Supreme Court ruled in April that the amendment on shorter presidential terms could not be backdated, ensuring that Maduro was safe on that front.
– Recall referendum –
Despite the obstacles thrown in its way by the central election commission, the opposition succeeded in collecting enough signatures to begin organizing a referendum on whether Maduro should step down.
But months later, as the opposition was collecting the signatures necessary for the second stage of the referendum process, the electoral commission shut the entire project down, citing alleged irregularities in the first round.
– An attempt at dialogue –
Even as it was organizing protests to dislodge Maduro, the opposition also pursued the tactic of dialogue with the government.
In the talks, the MUD demanded a timeline for elections, the liberation of “political prisoners,” the distribution of much-needed food and medicine to the people, and respect for the autonomy of parliament.
Although the dialogue was backed by the Vatican and the regional political bloc Unasur (the Union of South American Nations), the talks faltered last December amid mutual recriminations.
– A push for impeachment –
Parliament regained the initiative by declaring that Maduro was “politically responsible” for the crisis in the country and demanding that the attorney general examine whether there were grounds for impeachment.
But the Supreme Court responded with a ruling to dissolve parliament, stripping it of its powers and attempting to transfer them to the president, a move that brought international condemnation and helped trigger months of deadly protests.
– Spreading protests –
The latest wave of protests has brought thousands to the streets demanding elections, but has also left 95 people dead, according to an official toll.
The Supreme Court’s decision also caused serious splits within the Socialist leadership, with Attorney General Luisa Ortega denouncing the ruling as unconstitutional, making her the highest-level official to break ranks to date.
– Rebellion and referendum –
As the protests reached fever pitch in June, the opposition said the government should no longer be recognized, citing a constitutional clause allowing for the rejection of authoritarian regimes.
The opposition is now organizing a plebiscite to reject Maduro’s move to hold elections at the end of July for a new assembly that would be tasked with rewriting the constitution.
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