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Opposition protesters carry their country’s flag.

Venezuelans continue to seek recall of Maduro

By the A.M. Venezuela wire services

Empty shelves fill the aisles at stores and pharmacies across Venezuela while rolling power outages and scheduled blackouts force shopping centers to scale back their hours.

The economic crisis in Venezuela, which came as the result of falling oil prices and decades of financial mismanagement, culminated this week, with President Nicolas Maduro announcing a 60-day state of emergency.

The decree has been rejected by the opposition, which took to the streets this week calling for a referendum to force his ouster.

"What we are demanding is that we have a right for a transition to democracy in peace," Venezuelan opposition leader Maria Corina Machado said.

"We know that this regime is willing to do anything to stop the right of the people, the will of the people, to live in freedom and democracy," she said. "But they won’t silence the people of Venezuela, not anymore."

Last month, the opposition began the process of collecting some 4 million signatures needed to trigger the recall vote.

"I think President Maduro doesn't have many options other than trying to stay in power by hook or by crook," said Washington, D.C.-based analyst Kevin Casas Zamora, of the Inter-American Dialogue.

"He knows that if there is a recall, he’s going to lose it," he added.

Casas said although the opposition may be able to collect the signatures for a recall, it may have little recourse.

"The thing is the noises that we’ve been hearing over the past few days suggest the government is closing the avenue of a recall altogether," he said.

"And that’s precisely what is so serious about the situation, that if you close up that avenue, there is really no peaceful option to settle what has become political gridlock on a grand scale," Casas said. He is a former vice president of Costa Rica under Óscar Arias Sánchez.

Wednesday, Maduro predicted the demise of the opposition-led parliament weeks after threatening a constitutional amendment to cut short its five-year term. The Venezuelan leader also accused the United States of plotting a scenario of violence in the country to justify a foreign military intervention to force him from power.

The International Monetary Fund predicts that inflation in Venezuela, which is already the world’s highest, could more than double in 2016, topping out at more than 720 percent.
--May 22, 2016
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