The results of the two presidential elections held on Sunday in Bulgaria and Moldova underscore the winds of change blowing over the western edges of Eurasia. To an extent they can be called the early signs of the ‘Trump effect’. In both elections, ‘pro-Russian’ candidates won convincingly. (here and here)
In both cases, the contestation essentially boiled down to whether Bulgaria and Moldova would be better off casting their lot with the European Union or whether they need to realign with Russia. The answer is clear.
The open-ended quest for EU membership no longer holds attraction for Moldova, whereas, Bulgaria appears to be disheartened with its EU membership. On the other hand, Russia is real and it is next-door. The election results yesterday constitute a blow to the EU’s prestige. Indeed, Moscow’s influence is spreading in Eastern Europe.
This is also a swing to the Left in political terms. There is much discontent with ‘reforms’, rampant corruption, etc. in both countries. The Russophile sentiment is very substantial, and there is eagerness to boost trade with Russia to overcome economic difficulties. Also, the local partisans of the West and EU stand discredited in both countries.
In Moldova, only around 30% of population find EU attractive, while 44% would support their country joining the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union. Curiously, 66% of Moldovans trust Vladimir Putin; in comparison, only 22% place trust in Barack Obama’s words.
Against the backdrop of the election victory of Donald Trump in the US, how these trends are going to play out will be interesting to watch. Bulgaria’s president-elect Rumen Radev has called for an end to the EU sanctions against Russia. He argues that Sofia should be pragmatic in its approach to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. (This is notwithstanding Bulgaria’s long history of divided loyalties between Russia and Europe.)
The Obama administration in its lame duck phase will endeavour to pressure the EU to extend the sanctions against Russia for yet another 6-month period beyond December. But will Trump follow Obama’s footfalls when the issue crops up again toward the middle of next year? He is unlikely to show Obama’s messianic zeal to ‘contain’ Russia. That is how the EU consensus on sanctions against Russia can break down because many countries in Europe resent the American pressure and prefer to restore trade and economic ties with Russia.
Interestingly, Trump may get resonance in Old Europe as well. The Labour leader in Britain, Jeremy Corbyn made a stunning call in the weekend for Western leaders to ‘demilitarize’ the border between Eastern Europe and Russia or risk a New Cold War. He said the West didn’t have to pile up forces on Russia’s border. Corbyn told the BBC:
I have many, many criticisms of Putin, of the human rights abuses in Russia, of the militarisation of society. But I do think there has to be a process that we try –demilitarise the border between what are now the NATO states and Russia, so that we drive apart those forces and keep them further apart in order to bring about some kind of accommodation. We can’t descend into a new Cold War.
Corbyn also made a thoughtful suggestion that that the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which includes Russia, could replace NATO as a forum for solving issues in the region.
Indeed, some churning has already begun regarding European security even before Trump takes over in the Oval Office. By the way, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said on Sunday that American statements about possible deployment of a U.S. global missile shield’s radar in the Czech Republic are pure fiction.
He said, “A radar in the Czech territory would mean further escalation in relations with Russia. We need to use the window opening after Donald Trump’s election to have the United States and Russia sit down at one table.” Sobotka pointed out that Eastern Europe’s main security problem today is about putting an end to the war in Syria.
“The United States has considerable influence on the situation in Syria, Russia has considerable influence. So, it is necessary to use this,” he said, adding that Donald Trump can establish more efficient cooperation with Russia on Syria.
However, the fact of the matter is that neither has Trump taken his position yet on NATO nor is it going to be easy for him to seek a separation for America from the western alliance. Simply put, Europe is not ready for a post-NATO future. There is palpable fear in many quarters (both in the US and in Europe) that if the US were to withdraw from Europe, Russia would advance and exercise more assertive behaviour in Eastern Europe.
In an article in the weekend, NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg made an impassioned appeal to Trump that now is not the time for the US to abandon NATO. He pointedly invoked the threat perceptions from “a more assertive” Russia. Read the opinion piece here.
The bottom line is that European opinion stands divided. Britain, France and Hungary refused to attend a contentious EU ministerial meeting last night in Brussels, backed by Germany, to align the bloc’s approach to Trump’s election. The rift within the EU on the US vote stands exposed. The irrepressible British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has publicly chided EU politicians to end their ‘whinge-o-rama’ over Trump. (Daily Mail )
Interestingly, the first politician from abroad whom Trump met after the election has been Nigel Farage, the populist Brexit campaigner.
© Aleksey Nikolskyi / Sputnik
Russia is ready and looks forward to restoring bilateral relations with the United States, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, commenting on the news of Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election.
“We heard [Trump’s] campaign rhetoric while still a candidate for the US presidency, which was focused on restoring the relations between Russia and the United States,” President Putin said, speaking at the presentation ceremony of foreign ambassadors’ letters of credentials in Moscow.
“We understand and are aware that it will be a difficult path in the light of the degradation in which, unfortunately, the relationship between Russia and the US are at the moment,” he added.
Speaking about the degraded state of relations between the countries, the president once again stressed that “it is not our fault that Russia-US relations are as you see them.”
Earlier today, in a message to Donald Trump the Russian President expressed confidence that the dialogue between Moscow and Washington, in keeping with each other’s views, meets the interests of both Russia and the US.
The Russian leader noted in the message that he hopes to address some “burning issues that are currently on the international agenda, and search for effective responses to the challenges of the global security,” RIA Novosti reported.
On top of it, Putin has expressed confidence that “building a constructive dialogue between Moscow and Washington, based on principles of equality, mutual respect and each other’s positions, meets the interests of the peoples of our countries and of the entire international community.”
Russian State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin has also expressed hope that Trump’s victory in the presidential election will help pave the way for a more constructive dialogue between Moscow and Washington.
“The current US-Russian relations cannot be called friendly. Hopefully, with the new US president a more constructive dialogue will be possible between our countries,” he said.
“The Russian Parliament will welcome and support any steps in this direction,” Volodin added on Wednesday.
Commenting on Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia will judge the new US administration by its actions and take appropriate steps in response.
“We are ready to work with any US leader elected by the US people,” the minister said on Wednesday.
“I can’t say that all the previous US leaders were always predictable. This is life, this is politics. I have heard many words but we will judge by actions.”
According to many observers, US-Russia relations are now at their lowest point since the Cold War. Putin has repeatedly noted that the worsening of Russia’s relations with the US “was not our choice,” however.
For things to improve between Moscow and Washington, the US should first and foremost start acting like an equal partner and respect Russia’s interests rather than try to dictate terms, Putin said last month.
The US will have to negotiate with Russia on finding solutions to international issues as no state is now able to act alone, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said last week, adding that problems in bilateral relations began to mount long before the Ukrainian crisis broke out in 2014.
FBI Director James Comey has told Congress that a new investigation by his agency of Hillary Clinton’s private email server has not unearthed any information that would warrant any charges being brought against the Democratic candidate.
Saying that his team “has been working around the clock,” studying emails on a laptop belonging to the husband of an aide of Hillary Clinton’s, Comey claimed the review of the additional material “from a device obtained in connection with an unrelated criminal investigation” did not change the investigators’ previous conclusion regarding Clinton’s email practices.
In July, the FBI said no charges were warranted in the case of the former secretary of state concerning her use of a private email server.
“[We] have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July with respect to Secretary Clinton,” Comey wrote in his letter on Sunday.
Since late October, the FBI director has found himself in hot water following his announcement of new “appropriate investigative steps” in the months-long investigation into Clinton’s use of a private server while she served as America’s secretary of state.
The FBI then obtained a search warrant that allowed it to scour through some 650,000 emails discovered on a laptop belonging to ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner and apparently also used by his wife, Clinton’s closest aide, Huma Abedin.
Commenting on the announcement that there would be no charges, Clinton’s campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri told reporters they were “glad that this matter is resolved.”
Earlier Sunday, the chairman of Clinton’s campaign, John Podesta, accused the FBI chief of revealing the new investigation in the first place by calling it a “mistake.”
“I think the men and women of the FBI are doing a tremendous job out here across the country, but the leakers should shut up,” Podesta said in an interview with NBC News’ Meet the Press.
The chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, John Podesta, has harshly criticized the FBI chief’s recent announcement of a new investigation into his candidate’s private email server. Podesta said letting the public know of what’s going on before the election was a “mistake.”
“I think what [FBI director] Mr. Comey did just nine days ago was a mistake,” Clinton’s campaign chairman said on Sunday in an interview with NBC News’ Meet the Press.
When asked whether the agency’s revelation benefited their rival, Republicans’ Donald Trump, Podesta said he had “never questioned his [Comey’s] motivation,” but claimed it had a certain purpose.
“It broke with precedent, there is a reason for that policy, it looked like it was interfering with the election,” he said, adding: “I think the men and women of the FBI are doing a tremendous job out here across the country, but the leakers should shut up.”
In late October, Director Comey revealed that after his agency had learned of new emails involving Hillary Clinton’s private email server during her time as a Secretary of State, it would “take appropriate investigative steps.”
The news prompted one US Democratic senator, Tim Ryan, to allege that it was Moscow who might be behind the new leak that caused the reopening of the FBI probe.
In his NBC News’ interview, Podesta also emphasized Russia’s alleged involvement with the upcoming elections. Saying that WikiLeaks’ exposure of his emails do not bother him on “a personal level” due to his “pretty thick skin,” he blamed Russia for “helping” Donald Trump to become the next president.
“[T]his is an unprecedented situation where a foreign power hacked my emails, is working with WikiLeaks and Julian Assange to dribble them out in order to maximize the damage to Hillary and to maximize the help to Donald Trump who has adopted essentially Russian foreign policy and rejected bipartisan US foreign policy,” Podesta said.
Caracas – Venezuela’s national government has agreed to release five jailed opposition activists in a goodwill gesture as part of its official talks with the country’s opposition.
The liberation of the prisoners is the first concrete agreement to emerge from the Vatican-mediated dialogue, initiated Sunday with representatives of four opposition parties.
On Monday evening, opposition mayor Carlos Ocariz took to social media to announce the negotiated release, confirming the freed prisoners as Andrés Moreno, Marco Trejo, Carlos Melo, Ángel Coromoto Rodríguez, and Andrés Leon– all arrested for their participation in violent protests or for the incitement of political violence.
As former security chief to opposition National Assembly President Ramos Allup, Ángel Coromoto Rodríguez, was arrested in May for allegedly bankrolling anti-police violence during opposition protests, while Melo was detained on August 31 for the possession of explosives. Similarly Moreno and Trejo were both arrested in late September after creating a video calling for the rebellion of the armed forces.
The longest-serving inmate amongst the group is Andres Leon, who was arrested during the deadly 2014 street violence known as the “guarimbas”. He was granted house-arrest on health grounds in June last year.
The announcement comes just three days ahead of an anti-government march on the Miraflores Presidential Palace, called by the opposition for this coming Thursday.
Opposition leaders had previously hinted that they would be willing to consider calling off the demonstration depending on the progress of the talks, which they say are contingent on the release of their activists from jail.
Nonetheless, the government’s gesture appears to have done little to dissuade the MUD leadership from going forward with the controversial march– despite the violence unleashed by their supporters during protests last week.
“The release of the political prisoners is important, but not sufficient,” MUD Secretary Jesus Chuo Torrealba told reporters.
On Tuesday morning, the MUD opposition coalition also retweeted a message from legislator Freddy Guevara insisting that Thursday’s march would “still go ahead”. Guevara is a lawmaker for the ultra-right Popular Will party, which is currently boycotting the talks.
The coalition has been deeply divided over the decision to partake in official negotiations with the government, with proponents describing the top-level talks as just “one more terrain of struggle” amongst many.
Meanwhile, the government has hailed the move as a sign of its willingness to negotiate with the opposition in a bid to ease tensions in the politically polarised country.
“We, who have been permanently waiting for opposition sectors to (commit to) dialogue, salute the fact that it has finally taken place,” Venezuela’s foreign minister, Delcy Rodriguez, told press at the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday.
The opposition has stated that it will not negotiate on its demands for a presidential recall referendum this year or on the release of all of its activists from jail, regardless of their crime. The MUD has yet to release an official statement confirming the status of Thursday’s march.
Lebanon finally has a new president. Lawmakers have thrown their support behind Michel Aoun, a strong Hezbollah ally, to fill the country’s long-vacant presidency.
The parliament convened at noon (1000 GMT) Monday for the voting session in its 46th attempt to elect a head of state.
Aoun was elected after four rounds of voting during the session.
The 81-year-old Christian leader has won the support of two of his greatest rivals: Samir Geagea, leader of the Christian Lebanese Forces, and ex-prime minister, Saad Hariri.
Earlier on October 20, Hariri, the leader Lebanon’s March 14 Alliance and a close ally of Saudi Arabia, voiced support for Aoun, raising hopes for the settlement of a long-running deadlock on Lebanon’s political stage.
He described his surprise endorsement of Aoun as necessary to “protect Lebanon, protect the (political) system, protect the state and protect the Lebanese people.”
Observers view Aoun’s rise to power as a political victory for Hezbollah, which will greatly diminish the Saudi influence in Lebanon’s political arena. The kingdom has been vigorously lobbying to prevent Lebanon’s presidency from being placed in the hands of Hezbollah’s allies.
Following Hariri’s announcement, Thamer al-Sabhan, the new Saudi minister for Persian Gulf affairs, paid a visit to Beirut for talks on the “political developments in Lebanon and the region.”
Sabhan used to serve as the Saudi ambassador to Iraq until recently, but Baghdad asked Riyadh to replace him after the diplomat failed to heed Iraq’s warnings for his interference in the country’s domestic affairs.
According to some Lebanese political sources, Hariri is expected to be appointed as prime minister for the second time.
Analysts say Aoun and Hariri, 46, face a formidable task to win the cross-party support needed to make a new administration a success.
Aoun, the founder of the Free Patriotic Movement, already had the endorsement of Hezbollah.
Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah (R) receives founder of the Free Patriotic Movement and presidential hopeful Michel Aoun in Beirut, Lebanon, on October 23, 2016.
Last week, Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah called upon all Lebanese political parties to join forces and put a favorable end to the 30-month presidential void in the Arab country.
Nasrallah, who was speaking during a meeting with Aoun, stressed the need for concerted efforts in order to direct the upcoming presidential vote in Lebanon toward a good conclusion.
Lebanon has been without a head of state since 2014, when the term of President Michel Suleiman expired.
The Lebanese parliament has repeatedly failed to elect a president due to the lack of quorum.
Under Lebanon’s power-sharing system, the president must be a Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the parliament speaker a Shia Muslim.
Hezbollah has accused Saudi Arabia of thwarting political initiatives and blocking the election of a president in Lebanon.
Late last year, Hariri launched an initiative to nominate Suleiman Tony Frangieh, the leader of the Marada Movement.
His proposal, however, failed amid reservations on the part of Lebanon’s main Christian parties as well as Hezbollah.
A Venezuelan policeman died after being shot during an opposition protest late Wednesday in the province of Miranda, Minister of the Interior and Justice Nestor Reverol said, adding there were two other officers injured.
Reverol stated that the officer was shot after the police tried to disperse an opposition march to preserve public order on the Panamerican highway in San Antonio de los Altos, adding that two suspects were in custody.
“There are two people detained for questioning, and an order will be issued to begin investigations to clarify this murder,” said Reverol.
The wounded officers were taken to a private clinic, where Jose Alejandro Molina Ramirez died, shot in the abdomen and arm. Medouza Dany Daniel Briceno was shot in one hand, Davis Jose Laya Ayala was hit in one arm and Miguel Antonio Cuevas Pirela had a wound on his face from a blunt object, but all were out of danger, the doctors informed.
Reverol said the right-wing opposition was responsible for the death of officer Molina. He also confirmed that four policemen were injured in Zulia state during the protests.
“The officer killed is Jose Alejandro Molina Ramirez who was shot in the abdomen and arm.”
The right wing had called for a “Taking of Venezuela” march Wednesday, provoking clashes that led to more than a hundred injuries.
Despite some factions of the opposition agreeing to talks with the government, some of the splintered right wing have refused dialogue and instead called for a national strike on Friday and a more provocative march to the Miraflores presidential palace on Nov. 3.
Miranda’s governor is right-wing leader Henrique Capriles, who denied that opposition forces had agreed to talks with the socialist government Tuesday and has been instrumental in calling for street demonstrations and the ouster of President Nicolas Maduro.
“This needs to keep growing so that the government understands once and for all that we’re doing this for real,” said two-time presidential loser Capriles.
The National Assembly, that is in contempt of the constitution, voted Tuesday to start an impeachment process against Maduro, even though any actions it takes have been declared nulled by the Supreme Court in the country.
Crowds at the protests where the officer was shot chanted “This government is going to fall!”
Clashes also broke out in the western town of San Cristobal that was an epicenter of violence during 2014 anti-Maduro protests that left at least 40 people dead.
Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations has criticized UN’s failure to properly organize humanitarian evacuations of the wounded from terrorist-held areas of Aleppo. The UN envoy to Syria defended the team, pinning the blame on the warring parties.
“We regret to note that the United Nations has not properly worked out an operation to evacuate the sick and the wounded,” Vitaly Churkin noted at the UN Security Council session, according to RIA.
The ambassador added that the UN work with various opposition groups in Aleppo and the local council was “left to take care of itself.” He stressed that the UN personnel did not “exert the necessary pressure” on “sponsors” of illegal armed groups to convince them to cooperate with the aid workers on the ground.
Besides criticizing the UN team, the Russian envoy also accused entities that have influence over fighters in besieged neighborhoods of Aleppo of not applying enough pressure on the militants to make the most of the Russian-Syrian humanitarian pause.
“External patrons of entrenched groups in eastern Aleppo could not or did not want positively influence the fighters and convince them to stop the shooting, to release civilians or leave the city themselves,” Churkin said.
The ambassador noted that militants in Aleppo continue to get supplies and arms, including portable surface-to-air shoulder launchers (MANPADs) and missiles.
The humanitarian pause was introduced in Aleppo on October 20, as Syrian and Russian jets halted all strikes in the vicinity of the city. While only an estimated ten percent of the city’s populace live in terrorist-held Eastern Aleppo, Moscow is doing everything possible to secure the evacuation of civilians.
Those civilians who want to leave jihadist-held areas may use six humanitarian corridors. Fighters can also leave the city with their weapons by using two other corridors established by the Russians and the Syrians. However, terrorists have refused to leave and instead resorted to shelling the civilian escape routes.
Russian and Syrian planes have stayed out of the city for eight consecutive days. In that time, only a few dozen civilians managed to escape the terrorist-held areas. Meanwhile, the Russian reconciliation centers continued to pour aid into Aleppo.
During the Security Council session, the UN official in charge of humanitarian aid defended the world organization’s actions in Syria, laying blame at both the rebels, Damascus, and Moscow for not allowing the UN humanitarian assistance to take place.
“The United Nations were ready to launch our operations on Sunday, 23 October. However, objections by two non-State armed opposition groups, namely Ahrar as-Sham and Nureddin Zenki, scuppered these plans. The United Nations made every effort to get assurances from all parties, only for the parties to then fail to agree on each other’s conditions about how evacuations should proceed,” said Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stepen O’Brien.
In the meantime, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent teams working in Aleppo have complained that delivering the humanitarian aid and treating the wounded has been a challenge, as the ICRC failed to “secure the security guarantees of some armed groups.”
Back at the UNSC, O’Brien painted a clear picture for the members of the UN Security Council of human suffering in Eastern Aleppo where terrorists use civilians as human shields.
In a graphic yet poetic account, O’Brien said that civilians – mostly children and elderly – are stuck in basements where “the stench of urine and the vomit caused by unrelieved fear never leaving your nostrils” is omnipresent.
“Or scrabbling with your bare hands in the street above to reach under concrete rubble, lethal steel reinforcing bars jutting at you as you hysterically try to reach your young child screaming unseen in the dust and dirt below your feet, you choking to catch your breath in the toxic dust and the smell of gas ever-ready to ignite and explode over you.”
“These are constant, harrowing reports and images of people detained, tortured, forcibly displaced, maimed and executed,” O’Brien added.
While mentioning the destructive role of terrorist on the ground, the UN envoy to Syria went out of his way to blame Damascus and Moscow for their air raids.
“Aleppo has essentially become a kill zone. Since my last report to this Council less than a month ago, 400 more people have been killed and nearly 2,000 injured in eastern Aleppo. So many of them – too many of them – were children,” O’Brien said.
“Never has the phrase by poet Robert Burns, of ‘Man’s inhumanity to man’ been as apt. It can be stopped but you the Security Council have to choose to make it stop,” the envoy added.
Taking the mic at the UNSC meeting, Churkin criticized O’Brien’s report, which he said lacked factual information and failed to stress the cessation of Syrian and Russian air raids on the city. He asked O’Brian not to recite poetry but base his reports on concrete facts.
“If we wanted to hear a sermon, we would go to church. If we wanted to hear poetry, we would go to a theater,” Churkin said.
Security Council members wanted to hear “objective analysis” of the situation on the ground from O’Brien, the Russian ambassador stressed.
“You clearly did not achieve this,” Churkin said, reminding O’Brien that no strikes have been conducted over Aleppo since October 18. Calling O’Brian’s statement “provocative and unacceptable,” Churkin pointed that in the past eight days Syrian and Russian planes had not flown over Aleppo, staying at least 10 km away from the city.
“This moratorium on the flight lasted eight days [now]. Mr. O ‘Brian, you did not mention a single word about it. You have built your speech so to paint a picture that aerial bombardment did not stop for one day and that it is happening now, as we speak,” said Churkin.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power also criticized the Russian humanitarian corridors in Aleppo.
“Russia made an announcement about 6 humanitarian corridors and urged to take these corridors, including people with arms. But those families were terrified about entrusting their fates to the people who have been bombing their neighborhoods,” she said.
Churkin replied that Power resorted to her usual tactics – “distorting the Russian stance to the point of absurdity.”
“It is terrifying to live here [in Aleppo]. And the US is asking: ‘What can we do?’ We told you what to do – to have both Russian and American military work together on Castello road [in Aleppo]. You said no!” Churkin said.
Power and the US delegation, along with the UK, French, and Ukrainian delegations, later staged a walkout as Churkin passed the floor to the Syrian representative.
Venezuela’s opposition-led National Assembly has voted for impeaching President Nicolas Maduro accusing him for violating democracy. The anti-government vote came after the Supreme Court blocked the parliament’s plan to hold a referendum to try and recall President Maduro. The Venezuelan socialist government has dismissed the move as meaningless.
Lajos Szaszdi, a Latin America expert, told Press TV that President Maduro has the support of the Supreme Court, the security forces and people, as a result of which the National Assembly would not be able to remove President Maduro from power.
The executive branch of the government “has the upper hand” in the division of power in Venezuela; therefore, President Maduro will be able to survive attacks by the opposition, Szaszdi said.
The analyst went on to say that the president of Venezuela has control over police, security and military forces and “of course, there is a broad base of supporters,” and “there is no danger for his hold on power.”
The Supreme Court will not accept any anti-government resolution issued by the National Assembly of Venezuela until the parliament invalidates three opposition lawmakers who are being accused of having bought votes in the last general elections, he added.
“The opposition is desperate,” Szaszdi argued, adding that the opposition is trying to resort to “extreme measures,” but people, the armed forces and the Supreme Court would support President Maduro.
The desperation of the opposition has increased after the National Electoral Council put a stop to the opposition-driven plebiscite against Maduro when four state courts called the signature-gathering process fraudulent.
The Venezuela’s government, which is facing economic difficulties and all-out pressure from the opposition legislators, has said the country is the victim of an international plot against Socialism, led by the United States.
The ominous calls came as courts temporarily froze the referendum process to investigate thousands of fraudulent signatures submitted in the first phase.
Leader’s from Venezuela’s opposition appeared to call for a coup against President Nicolas Maduro, after the country’s Supreme Court ruled that the presidential recall referendum would be temporarily suspended due to fraud committed in the first phase of the process.
Opposition leader Henrique Capriles said Friday that President Maduro is “in disobedience of the constitution” and called on both the National Assembly and Armed Forces to “make a decision” and have people “respect the constitution.”
The former Venezuelan presidential candidate also said Maduro had vacated his position as president, prompting fears that a coup might be looming.
“Maduro did not only leave the country, he left his position,” Capriles said during Friday’s press conference.
“Maduro declared himself in disobedience, he does not respect the Constitution, and today he left the country, and will leave everything.”
Maduro left Venezuela for various OPEC and non-OPEC countries Thursday to help establish a stable price for oil, which has negatively affected the South American country’s economy.
Capriles, head of Justice First and one of the leaders of the opposition MUD coalition, also called on the nation’s armed forces to intervene.
“Hopefully the armed forces will have people respect the constitution,” he said.
The MUD leader also demanded the government repeal the decision to suspend the signature collection process for the recall referendum and called on opposition members to “take the streets of Venezuela.” Toward the end of his speech, Capriles denied he wanted a coup to oust Maduro and said he does not want to incite violence.
“We don’t want a coup in the country,” said Capriles, “A coup has (already) happened to the people and we have to restore constitutional order.“
Henry Ramos Allup, the president of the National Assembly, also spoke during the press conference and said the National Assembly he leads supports all the decisions and the message promoted by Capriles.
Ramos Allup also called on the Venezuelan Armed Forces “to analyze the abuses to the constitution” allegedly carried out by the government. He also said they were offering a constitutional way out for Maduro through the recall referendum in order to prevent “a violent way out” in the future.
The legislator said a delegation from the assembly will travel to the Organization of American States, or OAS, to demand the OAS apply the so-called Democratic Charter against his country, something the opposition has been requesting for months.
“Venezuelans have always been stronger than its leaders,” he said, before he cast doubt on Maduro’s nationality, suggesting he may actually be Colombian—a common allegation that has no basis.
The National Electoral Council, or CNE, said the decision to postpone the recall referendum process came after the MUD committed the criminal offense of presenting more than 600,000, about 30 percent, of signatures deemed irregular. Among the invalid signatures were almost 11,000 from deceased Venezuelans.
The Supreme Court also declared invalid all acts of the National Assembly after it swore in three legislators who had previously been suspended over irregularities when they were elected.