By Brian Ellsworth
CARACAS Venezuela's opposition-dominated Congress convened on Thursday to push forward a political trial of socialist President Nicolas Maduro, a day after dozens were injured in protests demanding a vote to recall the unpopular leader. The opposition has intensified demonstrations since authorities last week effectively scuttled its drive for a plebiscite, with a national strike and march to the presidential palace set for coming days.The National Assembly voted on Tuesday to open a largely symbolic trial against Maduro for violating democracy, but the government dismissed the move as meaningless.The opposition had urged supporters to rally outside of Thursday's session to show support. But government supporters and security forces appeared outside, impeding access for some, witnesses said.
Congressional leaders also denounced early in the morning that power had been cut off to the legislative palace, forcing them to rely on an emergency backup generator."The federal legislative palace was built (in the 19th century)," wrote parliament administrator Roberto Marrero in a tweet directed at state-run power company Corpoelec. "In that era there was NO electricity. And they held sessions anyway!" The opposition says the Maduro government effectively staged a coup by blocking a recall vote that polls suggest he would lose. Maduro says it is the opposition that is seeking to overthrow the government illegally.
He notes that the combination of a national strike, set for Friday, and a march to the Miraflores presidential palace, scheduled for next week, mirrors the situation in the run-up to the 2002 coup that briefly toppled late socialist leader Hugo Chavez."We urge the Democratic Unity lawmakers to reflect. Do not head down the road of a coup," said Hector Rodriguez, who leads the minority government faction in the National Assembly. Global oil prices rose on Thursday, in part in response to the renewed unrest in the OPEC nation that holds the world's largest crude reserves.
But there was no evidence the demonstrations could affect operations at state oil company PDVSA, which has been firmly under the control of the ruling Socialist Party.The opposition rallies on Wednesday, dubbed the "Takeover of Venezuela," drew hundreds of thousands of people and triggered dozens of injuries and arrests as protesters clashed with police in provincial cities.State prosecutors said 80 people would be presented in court on charges of violence. (Additional reporting by Diego Ore, Leonardo Fernandez and Efrain Otero; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and W Simon)
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Updated Date: Oct 27, 2016 22:46:56 IST