CARACAS Venezuela's opposition-led Congress on Monday approved a resolution declaring that President Nicolas Maduro had "abandoned his post," a symbolic move unlikely to break a year-long stalemate between the executive and the legislature.
The opposition won a sweeping majority in 2015 elections as a result of anger over the country's deep economic crisis, but has been hamstrung by a hostile Supreme Court that has shot down nearly every measure it has approved.
The court last year ordered Congress to halt a political trial of Maduro meant to declare him responsible for the country's crisis, and the president has dismissed the legislature's moves against him as unconstitutional.
"The most important thing is that (this measure) demands an electoral solution to Venezuela's crisis, so that the people can express themselves through the vote," Congress President Julio Borges said following the vote to approve it.
The opposition in 2016 spent months organising to seek a recall referendum on Maduro's rule, but that effort was effectively scuttled by electoral authorities that the opposition accuses of supporting the ruling Socialist Party.
Maduro's critics blame him for triple-digit inflation, Soviet-style product shortages and snaking grocery store lines that stretch for blocks. Maduro, a former union leader and ex bus driver, says he is the victim of an "economic war" led by his political adversaries with the support of Washington.
"President Maduro has not resigned and he will not resign," Socialist Party Vice President Diosdado Cabello said at a news conference before the vote. "He has not abandoned his post, and we have not recognised nor will we recognise a disobedient legislature."
Congress opened a year ago to great fanfare among Maduro's adversaries amid hopes the opposition majority would be able to revamp the country's decaying, state-led economic system. But the situation has instead devolved into a political stalemate as economic difficulties have become steadily more extreme.
Maduro's term in office ends in 2019.
(Reporting by Brian Ellsworth and Eyanir Chinea; Editing by Leslie Adler)