Maduro allies ask Venezuela high court to block recall for 'fraud'

Maduro allies ask Venezuela high court to block recall over 'fraud'

Caracas (AFP) - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's allies on Monday asked the Supreme Court to block the opposition's effort to organize a recall vote against him, alleging fraud in the collection of signatures.

Jorge Rodriguez, the head of a panel appointed by the president to oversee the recall push, said he had filed a complaint asking the high court, which is seen as close to Maduro, to "protect Venezuelans' constitutional rights" by intervening.

The opposition, which accuses Maduro of driving the country to the brink of economic collapse, is racing to call a referendum on sacking him by the end of the year.

It has submitted a petition with 1.8 million signatures to start the lengthy process.

Electoral authorities accepted 1.3 million of them as valid. Last week, they said they would proceed to the next stage: verifying those 1.3 million signatories' identity with fingerprint scans.

Speaking to journalists outside the Supreme Court, Rodriguez said it would be "perpetrating a brutal fraud to authorize (the opposition) to proceed to the next stage" of the process.

But he did not elaborate on the scope of the complaint or the specific action it sought.

"What we're seeking is the defense of the constitution. This farce put on (by the opposition)... was trying to create a climate where violence would erupt," he said.

With Venezuela racked by shortages of food, medicine and electricity, the opposition has warned the country risks exploding into unrest if authorities do not allow a recall vote.

It is racing to complete the process by January 10, the cutoff to trigger new elections. After that date, a successful recall vote would pass power to Maduro's vice president.

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