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Venezuela’s opposition passes anti-Maduro motion

The president of Venezuela's National Assembly Julio Borges gestures as opposition lawmakers pass a key motion against President Nicolas Maduro in a bid to force early elections, at the Congress in Caracas on January 9, 2017. (Photos by AFP)

Opposition lawmakers in Venezuela have approved a censure motion against President Nicolas Maduro in an attempt to trigger early elections.

On Monday, Venezuela's opposition-led Congress declared that Maduro had "abandoned his post" by failing to bring under control the "economic devastation" in the country.

According to Venezuela's constitution, the National Assembly can force the president's substitution by claiming he has "abandoned his post."

"The most important thing is that (this measure) demands an electoral solution to Venezuela's crisis, so that the people can express themselves through the vote," said Congress President Julio Borges after the motion was approved.

Venezuela’s Supreme Court is expected to overrule the motion which is generally seen as a symbolic gesture. In the past it has stated that "the National Assembly is not qualified to remove the president."

During a press conference held before the vote, Socialist Party Vice President Diosdado Cabello said that "President Maduro has not resigned and he will not resign…He has not abandoned his post, and we have not recognized nor will we recognize a disobedient legislature."

Venezuela’s main opposition MUD coalition has been demanding a recall referendum against President Maduro or that the date of the presidential election slated for December 2018 be brought forward.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro delivers a speech during a rally to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Liberator Simon Bolivar, in Caracas on December 17, 2016.

Under constitutional rules, the opposition must secure a recall referendum before January 10 if it wants to remove Maduro. Otherwise, the president or his allies will maintain power until 2019.

The crash of oil prices in 2014 triggered an economic crisis in Venezuela, leading to severe shortages of basic supplies and soaring inflation. While the center-right opposition holds Maduro’s administration responsible for the country’s economic woes, the Venezuelan leader has blamed everything on a US-sponsored conspiracy.

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