Latin America & Caribbean

Venezuela: Police block opposition march over Maduro referendum

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles reacts to tear gas Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Capriles said he was targeted by Venezuela's National Guard

Venezuela's National Guard has clashed with opposition demonstrators who were marching on the headquarters of the country's election commission.

Army and police officers used tear gas and blocked roads leading to the building in Caracas.

Earlier this month, the opposition presented a petition with 1.85 million signatures calling for a referendum on Nicolas Maduro's presidency.

It wants to put pressure on the authorities to speed the process up.

The march was organised by the opposition MUD (Democratic Unity Roundtable) party.

It is demanding that the authorities verify the signatures and go ahead with the process.

'Rubber bullets fired'

Senior opposition politicians were caught up in the scuffle.

Former presidential candidate and governor of Miranda state Henrique Capriles said he had tear gas sprayed in his eyes.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The authorities said demonstrators had not requested permission for the march

"Police fired rubber bullets and blocked the road," said the speaker of the National Assembly, Henry Ramos Allup.

"We are pulling out because we don't want anyone to get injured," he said.

Venezuela is facing a major economic crisis, which the opposition blames on the socialist polices of Mr Maduro and his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez.

Steps towards a recall referendum

Image copyright AP
Image caption For the recall referendum to be successful almost 7.6 million people will have to vote to oust Mr Maduro
  • 1% of voters on the electoral roll have to sign a petition within 30 days to kick-start the process
  • 20% of voters (almost four million) have to sign a second petition in order to trigger the referendum
  • For the referendum to be successful, an equal or greater number of voters than those who elected Mr Maduro would have to cast their vote in favour of the recall. Mr Maduro won the 2013 election with 7,587,579 votes

Under Venezuela's constitution, presidents can be removed from office by means of a referendum once they have served half their term.

Mr Maduro took office in April 2013, after defeating Mr Capriles in a closely-fought election.

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