Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition-majority legislature of staging a “parliamentary coup” after lawmakers voted to put him on trial amid a tense political and economic crisis. Accused by the legislature of “abandoning his post” and “criminal and political responsibility” for Venezuela’s descent into crisis, Maduro fired back by calling a meeting of his National Defense Council today — the same day the opposition plans massive anti-government protests.
“We will not permit a parliamentary coup of any kind,” he told cheering supporters at a rally in Caracas, after jetting back from an international tour.
Lawmakers earlier voted to open a “political and criminal trial” against Maduro over what they themselves have declared a coup: authorities’ decision last week to halt their efforts to call a referendum on removing the leftist leader from power.
It is unclear what impact yesterday’s legislative vote will have. The Supreme Court — which the opposition claims Maduro controls — has ruled the National Assembly’s decisions invalid.
Maduro accused the “useless” legislature of trying to “harm Venezuela,” and urged his opponents to agree to talks.
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The offer to open talks has sown deep divisions in the opposition.
On Monday opposition leaders first accepted and then rejected a proposal by Pope Francis for a “national dialogue” on Venezuela’s crisis.
Some top opposition leaders said they had only learned on TV about the proposal to hold negotiations on the Caribbean island of Margarita starting Sunday.
The rift lay bare the tension in the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), a shaky coalition united mainly by shared hatred of Maduro.
Leading opposition figure Henrique Capriles accused Maduro of using the pope’s goodwill for his own ends.
“What you must know is that we in Venezuela are fighting against Satan. This is the devil we’re facing, they are devils. They believe in nothing, they have no principles. They say they’re Christians when it’s convenient,” he said.