CARACAS: Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro has called for local elections in Venezuela -- but not at the presidential level, which millions in his strife-torn nation are demanding.
Maduro in his weekly television address yesterday endorsed voting planned for later this year at the mayoral and gubernatorial level. "Elections -- yes, I want elections now," he said. "That is what I say as the head of state, and as the head of government," Maduro declared during his broadcast, which aired after three weeks of street protests that have claimed the lives of 20 Venezuelans.
Saturday saw peaceful, silent marches across Venezuela as protesters clad in white paid respects to those who have died.
More demonstrations are planned today, in a bid by Maduro opponents to drive him from power. At present, a presidential election in Venezuela is scheduled to take place next year. The government has ruled out voting this year at the presidential level, as opposition leaders have demanded.
Dissidents blame the government for the unraveling of Venezuela's once-booming economy, which has left the country with shortages of food, medicine and basic goods. The spark that set off the near-daily protests was an attempt by the Supreme Court to take over the powers of the opposition-dominated Congress.