Venezuela Gov't Aims to Sink Maduro Recall

Venezuela Gov't Aims to Sink Maduro RecallVenezuela Gov't Aims to Sink Maduro Recall

Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro's socialist government sought on Tuesday to scupper a push by the opposition to oust him this year via a referendum, while his opponents called for protests.

As the OPEC nation faces an unprecedented economic crisis, both sides are deadlocked over a provision in the constitution allowing a recall referendum halfway through the president's six-year term, Reuters reported.

Government supporters lodged a complaint at the election board saying the Democratic Unity (MUD) coalition falsified signatures in an initial collection to trigger the process.

"They are committing grave fraud and corruption," senior Socialist Party leader, Jorge Rodriguez, told reporters outside the election council, saying signatures of nearly 11,000 dead people and 3,000 minors were included.

Maduro, 53, who won election to replace Hugo Chavez in 2013, has vowed there will be no referendum and the election council has been dragging its feet over the process.

The opposition urged supporters to march to the council's Caracas headquarters on Wednesday to demand it validate the first round of signatures, 1% of registered voters in each state. Previous protests this year have turned violent.

"We are in an emergency," opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, said in a speech at a public event. "All the prices are rising and the government does nothing ... To change this situation, there has to be political change."

If the referendum process proceeds, the next stage would be for the opposition to obtain 20%, or nearly 4 million signatures, asking for the vote.

In a communique, the election board said it would assess the validity of the first round of signatures on Monday, adding it was worried about aggression against its staff by protesters.

Critics blame failed socialist policies for Venezuela's 2-1/2 year recession, the world's highest inflation, product shortages and long lines at shops.

 Maduro says the fault lies with falling oil prices and an "economic" war by opponents.