Venezuela’s opposition concludes “standard session” to reject Maduro

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© Reuters. Opposition leader Juan Guaido greets supporters on a visit to a polling center in Caracas

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By Vivian Sequera and Sarah Kinosian

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela’s opposition, led by Juan Guaido, held a “popular consultation” on Saturday to reject President Nicolas Maduro’s government after boycotting a congressional vote last Sunday.

The consultation practically started on Monday and ended with personal participation. With 87% of the answers checked, the opposition stated that almost 6.5 million people took part. Of these, over 3 million voted in person and 2.4 million online. Almost 845,000 Venezuelans abroad took part, the opposition reported.

Efforts have been aimed at helping the opposition demonstrate widespread opposition to Maduro but do not provide a clear path to a change of government.

The general election brought Maduro’s allies back to Congress despite a ruined economy, aggressive US sanctions suppressing the OPEC nation’s oil exports, and the migration of some 5 million citizens. The Maduro government said 5.2 million Venezuelans voted in the elections.

The Congress was the last state institution that was not in the hands of the ruling Socialist Party.

The idea of ​​a popular consultation was proposed in August by Guaido, who is recognized by dozen of countries as the legitimate president of Venezuela following Maduro’s controversial re-election in 2018.

Opposition leaders and most Western nations said the elections had been stacked in favor of Maduro, who was widely criticized for his human rights record and undermining democracy, in order to stay in power.

On Thursday, Maduro said that “no internet consultation has constitutional status … no one would think that an internet consultation has legal value.”

Blanca Marmol, a former Supreme Court judge who helped organize the popular consultation, said at a press conference: “This, I would like to emphasize, is the last resource we have in the Constitution.”

Organizers on Saturday reported incidents in 11 of Venezuela’s 24 states, with police and ruling party supporters removing some opposition pages for informal voting.

Marco Blanco, a 54-year-old taxi driver in the western Caracas neighborhood of Catia, said he was unaware of the vote.

“I heard about a request, I don’t know what it is for,” he said. “I listened, but very vaguely. Almost nothing.”

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