Venezuela Opposition Leaders Stage General Strike
Venezuela’s opposition leaders have staged a general strike to push for a referendum on removing President Nicolas Maduro from power.
Many stores, businesses and schools stayed closed on October 28 and public transport was quieter than usual.
However, adherence to the strike was patchy and poorer areas largely ignored it.
Nicolas Maduro, who had warned companies they risked being seized if they joined the strike, said the walkout had failed.
Speaking to crowds of supporters, the president said the oil industry had ignored the strike, as had basic industries, banks, schools and transport.
Nicolas Maduro also announced measures to offset economic hardship – mostly caused by plummeting oil prices – by promising to implement a 40% rise of the minimum wage. It was the fourth increment this year.
The move has been dismissed by analysts as insignificant when the country faces spiraling inflation.
The center-right opposition coalition is also angry over a decision to block a referendum on removing Nicolas Maduro from power in Venezuela.
The coalition won a majority in the National Assembly last December and staged huge anti-government protests earlier this week.
The mass demonstrations came after a recall referendum process – an attempt to remove Nicolas Maduro from power – was suspended.
Opposition activists had gathered about 1.8 million signatures petitioning for the referendum, 400,000 of which were validated by electoral authorities.
The process was halted last week after officials said the signature collection process had been marred by fraud.
Parliament voted on October 25 to open a trial against Nicolas Maduro, whom lawmakers accuse of violating the constitution.
The president called it a “political trial” and said anyone who violated the constitution by launching it should be jailed.
Nicolas Maduro, a former bus driver and union leader, is blamed by the opposition for Venezuela’s dire economic situation and widespread food shortages.
In turn, he has accused the opposition of having links to foreign states, the US in particular, and of seeking to overthrow him to “lay their hands on Venezuela’s oil riches”.
Under Venezuela’s constitution, a recall referendum can be held once a president has served half of his term in office and the requisite steps are met.
So far, the opposition has only completed the first step of the process.