Maduro proposes early National Assembly vote


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Media captionVenezuela crisis: The four countries interested in the presidential battle
Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro has proposed an early election for the National Assembly, headed by opposition leader Juan Guaidó.Addressing supporters in Caracas, Mr Maduro did not set a date for the vote, currently scheduled for late 2020.The National Assembly has been stripped of its powers since his Socialist Party lost control of it in 2016. Mr Guaidó declared himself interim president in January saying Mr Maduro’s re-election last year was illegitimate.Speaking at a rally to mark one year since his controversial victory, the president said: “Let’s hold elections [for the National Assembly]. Let’s [have] a peaceful solution, electoral, democratic, constitutional.”Mr Maduro, whose re-election was marred by an opposition boycott and vote-rigging claims, added: “We’re going to measure ourselves electorally… we’re going to bring forward elections of the National Assembly.”Large crowds of his supporters took to the streets of the capital, many wearing red T-shirts and carrying “March for Victory” banners.

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President Maduro took part in a rally marking one year since his controversial re-election

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Government supporters gathered in Caracas on Monday

Also on Monday, the National Constituent Assembly – set up in 2017 by Mr Maduro after his party lost control of the National Assembly – has decided to extend its functions until the end of 2020.The body, made up exclusively of government loyalists and whose powers supersede those of the National Assembly, was originally due to run for two years.What’s the background?Mr Maduro and Mr Guaidó have been at loggerheads since the opposition leader declared himself interim president, arguing that last May’s vote was neither free nor fair.Mr Guaidó, who says the president is a “usurper”, has demanded a new presidential election. He has been recognised as interim leader by more than 50 nations, including the US and most in Latin America.Last month, he led a failed attempt to spark a military rebellion against Mr Maduro. Since then, several of his allies have been detained and the Supreme Court has accused 14 opposition lawmakers of crimes including treason and conspiracy.Mr Maduro accuses Mr Guaidó of being part of a US-orchestrated coup against his government. He retains the support of the military’s top ranks and of allies including Russia, China and Turkey.During the Maduro government, the economy collapsed, shortages of food and medicines became widespread and more than four million people left the country.Opponents accuse Mr Maduro of mishandling the economy of the oil-rich nation, while he says the country is victim of an economic war backed by the US.

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