Venezuela: Maduro rules out recall referendum before next year

President tells opposition groups he will not bow to blackmailing

Venezuela: Maduro rules out recall referendum before next year

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has said that a potential recall referendum against him would be in 2017 at the earliest, pushing back against growing opposition pressure to have the vote this year.

If Maduro, a socialist, were to lose a recall referendum in 2016, a new presidential election would be held. If it only occurs next year, his vice president would replace him in the event of a loss.

There will be no blackmailing here. If the recall referendums requirements are met, it will be next year and thats it, Maduro said on state television on Saturday.

If the requirements arent met, there will be no referendum and thats it, he added.

Adversaries of the ruling Socialist party say a subservient election board is seeking to stall the referendum to recall Maduro, who is facing heavy criticism due to a deep recession, the worlds highest inflation and Soviet-like shortages of food and other basic items.

In a small step forward for the oppositions effort to remove Maduro, the election board said on Friday it will begin a process of validating the signatures of citizens seeking the referendum, one of the requirements necessary to proceed to a vote.

Opposition leaders are warning that a referendum must be allowed to keep public anger over the political and economic crisis in the country from spilling over.

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