• Opposition says government will hamstring its recall petition
  • Calls to the street have fizzled since massive rally on Sept 1

Venezuela’s opposition alleged that the national electoral authority was preparing to further hamstring its effort to oust President Nicolas Maduro, as it struggles to maintain pressure on the ruling socialists and force a recall referendum by year’s end.

The national electoral authority, or CNE, is planning to require the opposition to gather signatures for its petition from 20 percent of registered voters in each state instead of nationwide, opposition coalition chief Jesus “Chuo” Torrealba said in a statement Friday. He also alleged that the CNE planned to deploy an insufficient number of voter verification machines and to place voting centers in government strongholds to further thwart the opposition. 

“This is a trap and the Venezuelan people won’t accept it,” Torrealba said. If the government violates “the constitution, they’ll find the people in the street. It won’t be like the taking of Caracas,” he said referring to a massive opposition demonstration Sept. 1, “but it will be the taking of Venezuela.”

The government insists there’ll be no recall vote in 2016, while the opposition is now struggling to maintain the momentum of demonstrations earlier this month, when it said over a million marched in the capital against Maduro’s rule. Subsequent protests have fizzled, attracting only sparse crowds, and some observers are concerned that the protests may have hardened the government’s stance.

“The pressure from the opposition and their mobilizations have caused the government to take an intransigent position,” said Colette Capriles, a political scientist at Simon Bolivar University, in Caracas.

In the capital on Friday, a crowd numbering in the hundreds turned out for what had been touted as a nationwide show of support for the recall effort.

“People are growing tired,” said Adriana Solorza, a 52-year-old medical doctor, as protesters were turned back from the city center by a cordon of national police. “It’s always march, march, march, and nothing changes. We need a more concrete destination.”

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