World Bulletin / News Desk
Jesus Torrealba, executive secretary of the opposition group, said the National Electoral Council (CEN) concluded validation of about 400,000 signatures that were under review since late June.
The amount doubles the quantity required by the CNE, which had asked the Coalition of Democratic Unity (MUD) to validate 1 percent of the signatures of nearly 200,000 voters to active the referendum.
"There is no formal, technical or legal pretext that could avoid the immediately beginning of the next phase,” Torrealba told The Associated Press.
The CEN has not yet confirmed the validation of signatures as the opposition claims, but the coalition expects authorities soon will.
Validation of signatures has bee an obstacle for opponents of the ruling party, who have accused the government of imposing difficulties to validate the signatures of 1.3 million voters gathered in late April in favor of a recall vote.
Maduro has accused the opposition of fraud in the collection of signatures.
The next step is the formal announcement of the end of the validation process and the call to collect about 3.9 million signatures, equivalent to 20 percent of the voters, that would trigger a referendum, Torrealba said.
If the MUD succeeds, the CNE must call a referendum in which the opposition would have to obtain more votes than the 7.5 million Maduro received in the 2013 elections, in a country of about 30 million residents.
If the referendum is held before Jan. 10 and Maduro loses, Venezuela will be able to call a new election.
Maduro has said that there is no time for a referendum this year.
The South American nation is suffering an economic and political crisis that has been sparked by the lack of food, medication and other basic supplies.