Venezuela opposition calls talks on ousting president

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro succeeded Hugo Chavez in 2013 (AFP Photo/Federico Parra) (AFP/File)

Caracas (AFP) - Venezuela's opposition said it will launch discussions Sunday aiming to devise a legal procedure within weeks to oust President Nicolas Maduro, whom it blames for the oil-rich country's economic crisis.

"Tomorrow there will be a special day of debate among political leaders on this subject," Jesus Torrealba, executive secretary of the opposition coalition MUD, told AFP on Saturday.

"In a few days, we will announce our agenda for change."

Prominent opposition lawmaker Freddy Guevara said on Twitter: "Tomorrow we will begin a discussion on the constitutional procedure for achieving a change of government."

He added: "Before the end of February we will be announcing this procedure."

The center-right opposition's most prominent figure, congressional chairman Henry Ramos Allup, on Friday vowed to speed up efforts to oust Maduro.

That call came after Maduro defied lawmakers by securing emergency powers to intervene in the economy.

Maduro responded by telling supporters "not to underestimate the threats Henry Ramos made today against peace and stability of the republic."

The MUD had promised to devise a way to oust Maduro before his current mandate expires in 2019, possibly through a new constitution or a referendum.

It was not clear however how it might overcome resistance from the court or electoral authorities, which it says are packed with Maduro's supporters.

Political deadlock over recent weeks between socialist leader Maduro and the opposition-controlled legislature has compounded an economic crisis.

Venezuela has the world's biggest known oil reserves but has suffered as crude prices have fallen sharply.

Citizens are suffering shortages of basics such as toilet paper and cooking oil.

Maduro has admitted Venezuela is in a "catastrophic" economic state, but said his emergency economic plan would allow the government to shore up production.

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