The Consejo Nacional Electoral [National Electoral Council], the body that runs and oversees the election process, finally announced the date of this year’s highly anticipated parliamentary elections: December 6.
Tibisay Lucena, the CNE’s head, made the announcement earlier today on television, and defended the perceived lateness of the announcement. Such is the level of political tension in the country that many Venezuelans feared that the CNE’s refusal to announce the elections date was a sign that they would not take place. On the issue, Lucena said:
At no moment did the CNE act in a way to [make people think] that there would be no electoral process this year.
Finally, Lucena praised the Venezuelan electoral system, calling it “one of the safest in the world”. She also said:
Venezuela is the only country in the world where official results are announced that same day. This is different from other countries, where they have to wait weeks or months.
Venezuelans on Strike React to Announcement
A video has appeared on YouTube showing a group of Venezuelans on hunger strike in the Chacao neighbourhood of Caracas watching Lucena’s announcement on television live. They begin to cheer and chant “Si se puede! Si se puede!” [“It can be done! It can be done!”] when they hear Lucena say “December 6”:
There were a total of approximately 100 Venezuelans on hunger strike as of four days ago alongside Leopoldo Lopez. They were demanding that the CNE finally announce the date of the elections.
Maduro: Day of Victory Announced
Maduro spoke shortly after Lucena’s formal election announcement, telling supporters that Venezuelans now know “the date of our new victory“. Maduro was speaking to supporters in Caracas’ Teresa Carreño theatre earlier today when he said:
We have the date! We have the date of our new victory. December 6 [is the day] of our people. December 6, the day of that admirable battle, for an admirable victory of the Venezuelan people.
Maduro also took the opportunity to attack his enemies, saying that they would “censure and veto” information about the elections to their favour:
There’s a kind of imperceptible political war: censure and veto. In Venezuela – I can tell you today as the President of the Republic – that the media is censured at [sic] the people, its leadership and its revolution. In Venezuela, there is a permanent veto against the beautiful, insurgent leadership that represents you.
Maduro’s comments regarding the apparent power of the media are at odds with reality. The Venezuelan government is the majority owner of Telesur, a multi-national television network. It also owns Venezolana de Television, a public network that broadcasts throughout Venezuela. The Venezuelan government also counts on a 2004 law called the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television [later expanded to include y Medios Electronicos] which grants the government far-reaching powers to restrict that kind of information that can be broadcast, and sets out heavy punishment for those who disobey the law.
Most notably, the head of the Globovision network, Guillermo Zuloaga, was arrested in 2010 after he made declarations that were “offensive and disrespectful” towards then-president Hugo Chavez.
Maduro continued his criticism of the media by saying:
The people are on the street fighting and the international and national media [act like] they don’t exist. People are out on the streets being persecuted; the repression continues and nothing happens. The media is silent so that it may control; they ignore and make the people invisible.
He also accused Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles, who is currently in New York City attending a conference, of going to the United States “to conspire” against him. Maduro assured his audience that he knew this for a fact because, as he put it:
… we have real-time information about everyone and everything. Don’t ask me how, but we find out everything. We have too many friends in the world.
MUD Claims Responsibility for Election Announcement
Jesus Torrealba, the head of the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica, was quick to spin the election announcement as a win for the opposition, claiming that it was only after months of protest and pressure that the CNE finally relented.
The best evidence that we don’t live in a democracy is seen in what happened today when it comes to the election date. In a country such as this, which lives in an authoritative process, the people had to pull the date for the elections out of the government, and we did it after [mounting] multiples [types] of pressure.
He cited the numerous protests the MUD conducted at the CNE’s regional headquarters around the country, along with the hunger strikes of Leopoldo Lopez and dozens of other students and activities around the country.
Torrealba also accused Tibisay Lucena of “perverting the public image” of the CNE by becoming subservient to the executive branch, and warned warned that the Venezuelan people would not let themselves be deceived:
These are a wise people. These people know the difference between the truth and a provocation. These people know that by turning out to the polls en masse and by having witnesses at the [voting tables] neither you nor anyone else will be able to twist the election’s result.
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