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Venezuela's regional elections suspended over Nicolas Maduro recall, ruling party says

By Andrew V. Pestano
Venezuela's regional elections suspended over Nicolas Maduro recall, ruling party says
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro delivers a speech to supporters during an act where he presented the budget for 2017 in Caracas, Venezuela, 12 October 2016. Maduro announced the he will present the budget for 2017 before the Constitutional Hall of the Supreme Court of Justice. Photo by Cristian Hernández/EPA

CARACAS, Venezuela, Oct. 17 (UPI) -- The ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela, or PSUV, on Monday said regional and gubernatorial elections set for December have been suspended over the opposition's efforts to recall President Nicolas Maduro.

PSUV spokesman Roy Daza, a member of Venezuela's International Affairs Committee, said the opposition -- consolidated in the Democratic Unity Roundtable, or MUD, coalition -- should suspend efforts to recall Maduro.

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"Yes, we want gubernatorial elections this year, but while the application for the recall referendum is introduced, regional elections are suspended," he told Globovisión, adding that the MUD suspending its recall efforts would "unlock" the political situation in Venezuela.

Venezuelans were scheduled to elect 23 governors who would serve from 2017 until 2021.

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Venezuela is facing an economic and political crisis. Basic goods such as food and medicine are often unavailable or unaffordable amid open hostility between the PSUV and MUD, which accuse one another of causing Venezuela's woes.

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Despite well-documented reports of Venezuela's economic crisis which, for example, has led to 17 percent of Caracas' residents to dig through garbage for food, Daza said there is no humanitarian crisis in Venezuela -- calling the reports accusations used by the opposition to promote violence in order to seek a "military foreign intervention" against Venezuela's ruling government.

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Daza also called on three opposition parliamentarians to withdraw from their posts. In late December, Venezuela's highest court -- the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, or TSJ -- suspended the three coalition members and one pro-government member who were elected to the National Assembly unicameral legislature in elections pending an investigation of allegations of electoral fraud.

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The suspension removes the MUD's two-thirds super-majority, which would enable it to remove judges from the high court, particularly after the PSUV was accused of stacking the court before the change of power.

Several of Venezuela's institutions are accused of making decisions in favor for late former President Hugo Chavez's socialist regime, including the TSJ and the National Electoral Council -- which sets the date for elections.

Daza said the MUD removing Maduro is "unlikely."

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"It is very difficult, almost impossible to unseat president of the republic, Nicolas Maduro," Daza said.

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