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Nicolas Maduro Venezuela President angers foes by refusing to speak to Congress

Opposition lawmakers said he was breaking the constitution, which says the address must take place in the assembly.

  • Published:
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (L) and his wife, Cilia Flores wave to supporters in Caracas on January 15, 2017 play

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (L) and his wife, Cilia Flores wave to supporters in Caracas on January 15, 2017

(AFP)

Venezuela's leader Nicolas Maduro angered his opponents Sunday by refusing to deliver his annual presidential address in the legislative chamber, fanning tensions in the volatile country.

Maduro was preparing to give the speech reviewing his year in office at the Supreme Court, in a snub to the National Assembly.

Opposition lawmakers said he was breaking the constitution, which says the address must take place in the assembly.

"This confirms that Maduro is acting outside the constitution," the new opposition speaker of the assembly, Julio Borges, told reporters.

Maduro considers the assembly illegitimate since the courts have ruled in his favor by disqualifying some of its opposition members.

The opposition MUD coalition blames Maduro for an economic crisis that has prompted deadly riots and looting due to shortages of food and medicine.

It wants a popular vote on removing him from office and has called for fresh street protests on January 23.

Maduro says the crisis is the result of a US-backed capitalist conspiracy.

His speech on Sunday is due to review a year that saw Venezuela's economic woes deepen and the political dispute between Maduro and the MUD drag on with no solution in sight.

The year "2016 was the year of resistance, 2017 will be the year of recovery," the socialist president said a few days ahead of his address.

He has promised to expand food aid to the poor.

The International Monetary Fund forecasts inflation in Venezuela will soar to a mind-boggling 1,660 percent this year.

Opposition majority lawmakers in the National Assembly last week passed a motion declaring that Maduro had effectively "abandoned his post" by failing to tackle the economic crisis.

Maduro branded that move a "coup" attempt.

He launched an "anti-coup commando squad" that arrested seven of Maduro's prominent opponents this week.

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