In Venezuela teargas and stones were exchanged as violent clashes between government forces and the Democratic Unity coalition erupted on Wednesday. The protesters are angered by what they see as a pro-government electoral body delaying the verification of signatures on a petition that calls for a referendum on Nicolas Maduro’s presidency.
The petition was submitted by the opposition on May 2nd with nearly 1.85 million signatures, if officially validated a second round of petitioning would take place to officially call a referendum, this time requiring at least 4 million signatures.
If the second petition is validated and a successful referendum is held before the end of 2016, an immediate presidential election will take place. However, if the the referendum is held and proves successful in 2017, than the presidency will fall to Vice President Aristobulo Isturiz.
Maduro was the Vice President of Hugo Chavez and was named his direct successor when Chavez died in March of 2013, before being officially elected a month later.Despite coming to power amid a worsening economic conditions, Maduro vowed to maintain the social programmes created by his predecessor .
These programmes were paid for by the revenues generated from Venezuela’s oil industry, which contains the largest reserves in the world and dominates the nation’s economy. When the price of oil hit rock bottom at $26 per barrel in February, down from high of over $100 per barrel in 2014, the already declining Venezuelan economy went into emergency.
While the government still controls the prices of basic goods, the economic dependence on the now low price of oil means that the government is incapable of importing these goods. This dangerously short supply has meant that line ups for things like food and medicine are hours long and often fruitless.
Many now feel that President Maduro is incapable of fixing the economic crisis and fear what may happen if it isn’t quickly resolved. A recent poll showed that 70% of Venezuelan want President Maduro, whose term ends in 2019, removed before the end of 2016.