Venezuela Opposition Signatures Validated

Venezuela Opposition Signatures ValidatedVenezuela Opposition Signatures Validated

Venezuelan opposition leaders say they have validated enough signatures on a petition to move to the next stage in a process to remove President Nicolas Maduro in a recall referendum.

Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have given fingerprints to authenticate signatures on the petition.

Referendum coordinator Vicente Bello said the number of signatures had “clearly exceeded the minimum needed”, BBC reported.

The process must now be validated by electoral officials. If that step is passed, a second petition must be signed by four million people before a recall referendum can be held.

The opposition blames Maduro’s socialist policies for rampant inflation and shortages of food and basic goods.

The initial petition handed in on 2 May gathered almost two million signatures but election officials said 600,000 of those were fraudulent.

Those who signed the petition had until Friday to have their identity cards and fingerprints checked in centers set up by the National Electoral Council. Only 1% of the electorate, or 194,729 voters, is needed to endorse the referendum in the first phase.

Many people queued for hours to have their signatures authenticated by electronic fingerprinting.

“Prices are going up every day, on top of the shortages,” said civil servant Felix Rodriguez, who skipped work to give his signature. He said he had no flour, milk or meat in his kitchen and there were no spare parts to repair his car.

Opposition leaders want the recall vote to be held this year, as its timing is key for what happens next. If the referendum is held before 10 January and goes against Maduro, fresh elections will be triggered. But if the vote were to be held after 10 January—in the last two years of Maduro’s mandate—he would be replaced by his vice president and supporter, Aristobulo Isturiz.