No paychecks for lawmakers in crisis-hit Venezuela

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Caracas (AFP)

The speaker of Venezuela's opposition-controlled National Assembly said Wednesday the legislature cannot pay lawmakers or employees because the government has failed to allocate its budget.

Leading opposition figure Henry Ramos Allup told journalists the legislature has run out of money, the latest victim of the crisis gripping the recession-racked country.

"There's no money to pay salaries this month... because the government isn't sending us the funds," he said.

"Lawmakers and employees should know that if we can't issue their paychecks, they should go to the finance ministry and the presidential palace to collect their salaries," he added sarcastically.

The opposition took control of the legislature in January, after winning a landslide election victory as exasperated Venezuelans punished President Nicolas Maduro for a brutal recession, chronic shortages and runaway prices.

Maduro's right-hand man, Diosdado Cabello -- Ramos's predecessor -- had warned that the government would cut off funds to the legislature, which he accused the opposition of winning fraudulently.

The opposition began collecting signatures Wednesday for an official petition to organize a referendum to remove Maduro from office.

The socialist president is under growing pressure since ordering rolling blackouts for four hours a day in most of the country and closing government offices all but two days a week to deal with an electricity shortage.