Bus driv­ers bring chaos to Cara­cas

Malta Independent - - WORLD -

Bus driv­ers in the Venezue­lan cap­i­tal, Cara­cas, paral­ysed the city for eight hours on Wed­nes­day by block­ing the streets with their ve­hi­cles to protest against the coun­try’s eco­nomic cri­sis.

Hun­dreds of driv­ers de­manded more pay and pro­tec­tion from vi­o­lent crime.

Many said they needed more money to main­tain their buses and com­plained of a scarcity of spare parts.

Mean­while, the elec­toral coun­cil all but ruled out a re­call ref­er­en­dum this year against Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro.

The de­ci­sion is a set­back for the op­po­si­tion, which has been press­ing for a vote to oust him this year.

The tim­ing of the re­call ref­er­en­dum is cru­cial as it will de­ter­mine what hap­pens next.

If it should go against the pres­i­dent be­fore 10 Jan­uary, new elec­tions will be held, which the op­po­si­tion hopes to win.

But if it is held af­ter that date and Mr Maduro is re­called, his loyal vice-pres­i­dent will serve out the end of his term un­til 2019.

The op­po­si­tion has ac­cused the Na­tional Elec­toral Coun­cil, which it says is stacked with sup­port­ers of Mr Maduro, of do­ing ev­ery­thing it can to de­lay the ref­er­en­dum.

Late on Wed­nes­day, the CNE an­nounced that the ref­er­en­dum “could take place half­way through the first quar­ter of 2017”, mean­ing that even if Mr Maduro were to lose, his so­cial­ist party would stay in power.

It also stip­u­lated that the op­po­si­tion would have to collect the sig­na­tures of 20% of vot­ers in each and ev­ery state of Venezuela - rather than just meet­ing that thresh­old na­tion­wide - in or­der for the ref­er­en­dum to go ahead.

The sig­na­tures will have to be col­lected within three days from 26 to 28 Oc­to­ber, the CNE said.

It also said that only 5,392 fin­ger­print­ing ma­chines would be pro­vided for vot­ers’ iden­ti­ties to be ver­i­fied.

The op­po­si­tion had re­quested al­most 20,000.

The MUD op­po­si­tion coali­tion called an emergency meet­ing to de­fine its new strat­egy in light of the CNE’s an­nounce­ment.

Its spokesman, Je­sus Tor­re­alba, re­mained de­fi­ant.

“This is noth­ing but an ad­mis­sion from the govern­ment that it has noth­ing to of­fer the Venezue­lan peo­ple at the polls,” he said.

He said mil­lions of Venezue­lans would mo­bilise to drive Mr Maduro from of­fice.

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