Maduro proposes early elections for opposition-run congress

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro proposes early elections for the National Assembly, which is headed by Juan Guaido.

    Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro attends a rally in Caracas, Venezuela [File: Fausto Torrealba/Reuters]
    Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro attends a rally in Caracas, Venezuela [File: Fausto Torrealba/Reuters]

    Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Monday proposed early elections for the National Assembly, which is headed by opposition leader Juan Guaido and is the sole body recognised as democratically legitimate by most Western countries.

    The opposition won a majority in the National Assembly in 2015 and the next congressional elections are currently scheduled for late 2020. Maduro did not give an exact new date, and he has previously said he would shift them earlier, without following through.

    In a speech at a pro-government rally, Maduro said, "We will legitimise the sole institution which has not been legitimised in the last five years".

    Guaido invoked the country's constitution in January to declare himself interim president after saying Maduro's 2018 re-election was illegitimate.

    The United States and most western countries recognise Guaido as the country's leader, while Maduro maintains the support of Russia, China and Cuba, as well as Venezuela's state institutions, including the military.

    Maduro accuses Guaido of staging a US-backed coup against his socialist administration and says he will face justice.

    "We are going to measure ourselves electorally ... we are going to bring forward elections of the National Assembly," Maduro told a crowd of red-shirted supporters on Monday.

    'We continue to advance'

    On April 30, Guaido attempted to rally Venezuela's armed forces to rise up against Maduro, but only a few dozen soldiers and one top government official defected while the military top brass reaffirmed their loyalty.

    Intelligence agents have detained several Guaido allies and the Supreme Tribunal has accused 14 opposition politicians of crimes including treason and conspiracy, prompting most to flee abroad or take refuge in friendly embassies in Caracas. 

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    The Venezuelan opposition's envoy to the US, Carlos Vecchio, said on Monday he had met Pentagon and State Department officials in Washington on Monday to discuss "all aspects of the Venezuelan crisis".

    Vecchio said in a message on Twitter that the talks held at the State Department had been "very positive" but offered no further details. "We continue to advance," he said.

    President Donald Trump and senior aides have not ruled out military action in the crisis-stricken South American country, repeatedly saying that "all options are on the table".

    But Washington has made clear it prefers to exert continued economic and diplomatic pressure to push Maduro out, and many experts have said the US use of military force is unlikely.

    Millions have left Venezuela in recent years, fleeing hyperinflation, unemployment and food and medicine shortages.

    Will there be a US military intervention in Venezuela?

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    Will there be a US military intervention in Venezuela?

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency