Venezuelan opposition-led legislature votes to begin political trial against President Maduro

The opposition-led National Assembly has voted to begin proceedings to impeach President Nicolas Maduro for “constitutional violations.” Proceedings are unlikely to be effective, but the decision will further raise tension in the politically deadlocked country.

"If Maduro doesn’t understand that he has to respect the constitution, we have all the right to ask him to step down,” Henrique Capriles, the leading opposition figure said on the eve of Tuesday’s vote.

Having adopted a 10-point resolution that agreed on Maduro’s culpability last week, the National Assembly called for the President – in power since 2013 – to face deputies in a week’s time. Maduro is almost certain to ignore the summons.

Elected last year, Congress has been deprived of its powers by a decision of the Supreme Court, which has consistently backed the incumbent over allegations of vote-buying.

"Legally, the National Assembly does not exist," said vice-president Aristobulo Isturiz on Tuesday.

The latest crisis comes after the electoral commission blocked a proposed referendum to recall Maduro before the end of his term, slated for 2019, accusing organizers of forged signatures.

In turn, the opposition called the move a “coup d’etat” from the government, and said it was planning nationwide street protests akin to those that helped bring down Communist rule in Poland in the 1980s.

The government then imposed legal restrictions on eight leading opposition figures. The move has been criticized by twelve American states, from longtime Maduro detractors US and Mexico, to erstwhile ‘Bolivarian Revolution’ sympathizers among the left-wing governments of Uruguay and Chile.