Maduro's critics want to know: Is he actually Colombian?

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, seen in Caracas on January 29, 2016, continually refuses to produce his birth certificate and says he was born in Caracas on November 23, 1962 (AFP Photo/Federico Parra)

Caracas (AFP) - A high-profile group of Venezuelans has called on the opposition-controlled National Assembly to investigate persistent rumors that President Nicolas Maduro is in fact Colombian, disqualifying him from holding the office.

A letter addressed to assembly president Henry Ramos Allup and reproduced in local news outlets refers to "the reasonable doubts existing around the true origins of Maduro, who has so far refused to produce his birth certificate."

The letter -- with echoes of the challenges to the citizenship of US President Barack Obama -- carries 62 signatures, including those of a former ambassador, a leading businessman and some former military leaders opposed to Chavism, the leftist ideology associated with Maduro's predecessor, the late president Hugo Chavez.

The letter asserts that Maduro, as the "son of a Colombian mother" and having lived in that neighboring country as a youth, is "Colombian by birth" under the Colombian Constitution.

If Maduro should be found to hold both Colombian and Venezuelan citizenship, the letter asserts, it would "prevent him from exercising the functions of the president of the republic."

Maduro, a socialist, has denied the rumors as the "crazed inventions" of right-wing politicians eager for his ouster. He says that he was born in Caracas on November 23, 1962.

The opposition, which scored a historic victory in the December 6 legislative elections, has made no secret of its intention to push the president out before his term ends in 2019.

On Friday, Ramos Allup said the opposition would decide by June on a legal means to proceed in that direction.