Venezuela cuts Caracas mayor post, tightening Maduro's grip

Caracas (AFP) –


Venezuela's special assembly on Wednesday eliminated the post of Caracas mayor that for years has been an opposition stronghold in another sign of President Nicolas Maduro's tightening grip on power.

The Caracas mayor's position, held by opposition leaders for a decade, no longer serves the purpose it was created for, according to the Constituent Assembly which has power of Venezuela on an emergency basis, and includes only pro-government people.

The not-so-subtle-subtext, analysts say, is the government does not want a politician more popular than the president in the capital.

The post was won by Antonio Ledezma in 2008, and he won reelection. In February 2015 however he was convicted of conspiring against Maduro. He fled house arrest and now lives in Spain.

Venezuela is in the grip of a long-running political and economic crisis.

Despite international isolation, broad unpopularity and scarce food and medicine in the country, Maduro has strengthened his hold on power by sidelining the opposition and excluding it from recent local and state elections.

Venezuela, once Latin America's richest country, is on the brink of default after a long slide into penury that has seen supplies of food and medicine become scarce and hundreds of thousands emigrate to survive.

Venezuela still has the world's biggest proven reserves of oil.

But because of endemic corruption and a chronic lack of investment, the OPEC member's oil production is falling sharply.

Annual output is around 1.9 million barrels per day, having slumped more than 23 percent between January 2016 and October this year.