BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Spanish Portuguese Caribbean
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
    You are in: Americas  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
 Thursday, 23 January, 2003, 02:00 GMT
Vote on Chavez rule called off
Women demonstrate on 21 January to call for President Chavez to go now
Chavez opponents want him to go now
The Supreme Court in Venezuela has suspended an opposition-backed referendum due next month on whether the country's embattled President, Hugo Chavez, should resign.

The electoral authorities had set the vote for 2 February after the opposition collected more than two million signatures demanding a referendum on the president's rule.

The government is just blocking ...all the democratic avenues

Timoteo Zambrano
Opposition negotiator
The decision seems set to inflame tensions between Mr Chavez and his opponents - now in their eighth week of a strike that has crippled oil output in the world's fifth biggest exporter.

Amid increasing capital flight and a slide in the currency, the government announced on Wednesday that Venezuela's currency markets would be closed for five days.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court ordered the National Electoral Council to suspend the referendum and refrain from organising any other elections.

However, the electoral authorities insisted the effect of the court's ruling was to "freeze" but not cancel the referendum.

Voters would have been asked whether or not Mr Chavez should step down.

Carter proposals

The result would not have been legally binding, but the president's opponents hoped a resounding defeat would have embarrassed him into calling early presidential elections.

President Hugo Chavez
Chavez has refused to bow to opposition demands
Mr Chavez has always insisted that his foes should wait until August when a constitutionally binding referendum could be held to decide whether he should stand down.

That was one of the proposals put forward on Tuesday by former US President Jimmy Carter, to try to end Venezuela's political deadlock.

Another proposal was to amend the constitution to allow early elections, cutting the presidential term from the current six years.

Both the government and opposition are studyling the proposals.

But the BBC's Adam Easton in Caracas says the Supreme Court's decision could prevent any agreement being reached soon.

Opposition leaders condemned the court's ruling as biased and a sign of the government's control of the courts.

"The government is just blocking and blocking all the democratic avenues," opposition negotiator Timoteo Zambrano told Reuters.

Vice-president Jose Vicente Rangel said the opposition had no legal basis to go ahead with the vote.

"We had always refused to recognise it, but now the Supreme Court has confirmed our position," he said.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Martha Dixon
"Venezuela looks to be heading for even more turmoil"

Key stories

Background

TALKING POINT
See also:

21 Jan 03 | Business
05 Jan 03 | Americas
22 Jan 03 | Business
21 Jan 03 | Americas
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Americas stories are at the foot of the page.


 E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Americas stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes