Venezuela's National Election Council has been authorized to set an exact date for the next presidential election after the Constituent Assembly - a body dominated by supporters of current leader Nicolas Maduro - approved plans for an early vote.
Last year, Maduro faced months of protests for presiding over a debilitating economic crisis that has seen a high inflation rate and shortages of food and other basic amenities.
Maduro was accompanied at the rally by Diosdado Cabello, the No. 2 leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela.More news: Las Vegas shooting: Stephen Paddock may have targeted Southern California
Nicolas Maduro looked sure to stand for re-election in a presidential vote due by the end of April.
The 55-year-old Maduro, a towering mustachioed former bus driver who was Hugo Chavez's handpicked successor, said he is ready to run if he receives the party's nomination. The National Electoral Council is stacked with Maduro allies while the government controls much of the media and far outspends the opposition during campaigns.
The opposition and government have been holding talks in the Dominican Republic for several weeks to try to agree a free and fair election, complete with the participation of foreign observers.More news: Police confirm release of four abducted expatriates in Kaduna
With the presidential election now only weeks away and numerous most popular opposition leaders either imprisoned, barred from running for office or in exile, the opposition will most likely struggle to find a candidate who can present even the slightest challenge to Mr. The opposition alleged there weren't enough guarantees the vote would be free and fair, but the partial boycott highlighted tensions over how best to confront Maduro, whose decision to create the all-powerful constitutional assembly alongside the opposition-controlled National Assembly has been condemned by several foreign governments, including the US and Canada. At the end of a thundering two-hour speech, Maduro said he would seek decree powers to counter the "imperialist" threat, and appointed one of the sanctioned officials as the new interior minister. "If our people are allowed to decide, they are out". "We don't recognise any decision that they are taking", Loizaga said. But the move stokes tensions between Washington and Caracas just as USA relations with Cuba, a longtime US foe in Latin America and key ally to Venezuela, are set to be normalized.
With cynicism toward all politicians running high among Venezuelans, many are clamouring for a nontraditional, outside candidate, Reuters reports.More news: Nintendo LABO Cardboard Creations Unveiled, Launches April 20th
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