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Venezuela's opposition coordinator resigns post, blow for anti-gov't forces

CARACAS, Venezuela--The head of Venezuela's opposition alliance resigned Wednesday, delivering a blow to anti-government forces bitterly divided over how best to challenge socialist President Nicolas Maduro as frustrations rise with his handling of the struggling economy.

Ramon Guillermo Aveledo had held the perennially fractious opposition together ever since the Democratic Unity alliance was created five years ago. After years of infighting and fumbled strategies, like a decision to boycott 2005 legislative elections, he helped rally a diverse range of opposition parties behind a single presidential candidate, Henrique Capriles, who on two occasions almost unseated the ruling socialist party.

Aveledo said he was resigning to allow new leadership to emerge.

“I'm not leave the Unity, I'm just changing my battle post,” the college professor said after the end of a multi-day strategy conference attended by top opposition leaders.

No replacement was announced.

In recent months, Aveledo and Capriles were strongly criticized by opposition hardliners and student activists for their decision to sit down and negotiate with the government following its crackdown on protests seeking to force Maduro's resignation.

While the protests filled city streets and energized the opposition's middle-class base, it also opened a deep rift within the coalition as moderates like Aveledo and Capriles urged a less confrontational stance so as not to alienate voters in poor communities where support for the government is strongest.

Ever the consensus-seeker, Aveledo didn't openly criticize his detractors.

But in a thinly veiled swipe at those who have questioned his leadership, he said he had been the target of a campaign to discredit the opposition that he charged was hatched by the government yet “lustfully embraced by senseless” elements.

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