CARACAS, Venezuela, April 27 (UPI) — Henry Ramos Allup, an opposition leader and president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, has accused the government of President Nicolas Maduro of attempting to sabotage efforts for a recall referendum.
Venezuela’s National Electoral Council, or CNE, on Tuesday delivered documents the opposition needs to begin collecting signatures for a petition that may lead to a recall referendum in which Venezuelans will be asked whether or not Maduro should be removed from power.
The documents came two months after they were initially requested. The opposition repeatedly criticized the CNE for not delivering the documents in favor of Maduro, accusing the electoral council of working slowly out of loyalty to Maduro.
Also on Tuesday, Maduro announced a two-day work week for public sector employees as a measure to deal with an energy crisis. As per the decree, Venezuela’s 2.8 million state employees will only work Mondays and Tuesdays. Maduro announced a three-day weekends for public workers less than a month ago.
Allup condemned the government measure as an attempt to prevent the opposition from gathering in efforts to gain signatures. He also criticized the two-day work week for not applying to Maduro’s executive branch or to the Supreme Tribunal of Justice top court and the Venezuelan military — both accused of being heavily influenced in favor of Maduro.
Allup, who was the first person to sign the recall petition, likened the energy measure as a vagrancy decree that is an attempt to incapacitate the National Assembly he leads.
“The National Assembly will work from Monday to Friday,” Allup said Tuesday. “Vagrancy decree dictated by the regime will not paralyze us.”
Maduro’s approval ratings are usually below 20 percent — at times dipping into single digits — meaning the likelihood of his removal is high. Venezuela held parliamentary elections in December, where Maduro’s ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela coalition was resoundingly defeated in what was seen as a referendum on Maduro.
Maduro previously served as former President Hugo Chávez’s vice president and became president after Chávez’s death in 2013. Maduro narrowly survived a constitutionally required presidential election a month after Chávez died.
The Venezuelan opposition, consolidated in the Democratic Unity Roundtable coalition, will need to get the signatures of at least 20 percent of voting-eligible Venezuelans in order to have a referendum. There are nearly 20 million Venezuelans eligible to vote, meaning nearly 4 million signatures will be needed for the recall process to continue.