Venezuela opposition says blocked from meeting near summit

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 10, 2016 1:22 PM

CARACAS (Reuters) - The leader of Venezuela's opposition-led parliament accused President Maduro's government on Saturday of blocking legislators from flying to Margarita island for a planned session alongside this week's Non-Aligned Movement summit.

"The government prohibited sea and air carriers from transporting us," National Assembly president Henry Ramos said via Twitter, amid a controversial build-up to the Sept. 13-18 meeting of the 120-nation bloc of mainly developing nations.

With Venezuela mired in economic crisis and political protests, the Maduro government hopes to use the event to bolster its international legitimacy, while the opposition wants to embarrass him and advance their campaign to end his rule.

The National Assembly had announced it would hold a session from Sept. 15 in Margarita, in the Caribbean off Venezuela's northern coast, to take advantage of contacts with visiting delegations for the Non-Aligned summit.

The Information Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Ramos' accusation.

Venezuela's opposition says the government is engaged in a wave of repression, including arrests of activists, while Maduro says his security forces are thwarting U.S.-backed coup plots.

The government has not yet said who is coming to the Non-Aligned meeting, though local media have reported there will be few heads of state beyond Venezuela's main political allies around the region like Cuba, Ecuador and Bolivia.

Ramos, a pugnacious 72-year-old lawyer and veteran of Venezuela's turbulent politics, delights hardliners with his colorful anti-socialist rhetoric and now rivals other opposition leaders Henrique Capriles and Leopoldo Lopez in popularity.

But he often offends "Chavistas", who still revere Maduro's predecessor and mentor Hugo Chavez, most recently by lamenting that a 2002 coup against the then president failed.

(Reporting by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)