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Caracas (AFP) - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government has lodged some 400 individual complaints over allegedly invalid signatures submitted in a bid to remove him from office, officials said.
The opposition MUD coalition had collected signatures representing dead and underage people and convicts in its effort to launch a recall referendum, according to Jorge Rodriguez, the socialist president's point man for tackling the drive to remove him from office.
"There will end up being thousands of citizen complaints against the massive fraud that was committed," he told reporters.
Venezuela is suffering a deep recession driven by falling prices for its oil exports. The crisis has prompted food shortages and deadly looting.
The opposition blames the socialist president's economic mismanagement.
Maduro meanwhile regularly accuses business elites of waging an "economic war" against him by hoarding supplies to aggravate the crisis.
The opposition launched its efforts to remove the president after winning control of the legislature in January. But Maduro has challenged his rivals through the Supreme Court, which they accuse him of controlling.
The government has already filed a case in the court against the referendum bid.
The national electoral board has said it will announce by July 26 whether enough signatures have been authenticated for the referendum drive to proceed.
If that happens, Maduro's opponents must collect four million more signatures to call a full referendum.
The opposition is rushing to complete the recall process by January 10, the cutoff date to trigger new elections.
After that date, a successful recall vote would simply hand power to Maduro's hand-picked vice president.