Venezuela opposition vows 'all means' to oust Maduro
Venezuela's opposition called Tuesday for the "largest movement that has ever existed" to oust President Nicolas Maduro, vowing to pursue all means to force him from power, including a referendum and protests.
The opposition, which has been on a collision course with Maduro since winning control of the legislature in December, spent weeks deciding on its strategy to remove the socialist president, whose popularity has plunged in the face of a crippling economic crisis.
In the end, after a heated debate over the merits of a referendum, a constitutional amendment or the drafting of a new constitution, it announced its plan was all of the above, and more.
It placed special emphasis on its call for protests, starting from Saturday -- a potentially explosive path amid the tensions tearing at Venezuela, after anti-government demonstrations in 2014 left 43 people dead.
"The Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) has taken the unanimous decision to call on the Venezuelan people to launch the largest popular pressure movement that has ever existed, to activate all -- I repeat, all -- mechanisms for change," said the opposition coalition's executive secretary, Jesus Torrealba.
That, he said, includes organizing a recall referendum, which enables voters to remove elected officials midway through their terms -- six years, in the case of the president.
Maduro was elected in 2013, a month after succeeding mentor Hugo Chavez following his death from cancer. Maduro reaches the midway point of his term in six weeks, on April 19.
To call a referendum, the opposition would need to get a petition signed by 20 percent of registered voters, or 3.9 million people, over a period of three days.
The referendum, to be organized within seven months, would then need to gather more votes than Maduro won with in 2013 -- some 7.6 million.
Torrealba said the opposition will also use its legislative majority to draft a constitutional amendment reducing the presidential term.
An amendment would also have to win approval in a referendum.
Torrealba said the opposition will consider calling a constitutional assembly to draft a new constitution if the government continues its "irresponsible practice of trying to block the constitutional mechanisms for a peaceful solution to the crisis."