The PSUV qualified its primaries yesterday as a resounding success, and revealed that 3,162,400 people had voted.
PSUV vice-president Diosdado Cabello was quick to point out that his party’s voter turnout greatly exceeded that of the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica, and had harsh words for the opposition and its supporters:
They [the MUD] says that in their process, some 500,000 electors, and we have no reason to not believe their numbers. We mobilized more than three million people. In other words, we not only doubled [the MUD’s turnout], but we exceeded it by five.
The primaries saw many well-known PSUV figures chosen to represent their respective district in the December 6 parliamentary elections, including Ernesto Villegas and Freddy Bernal (Capital District, Circuit 1), Jacqueline Faria (Capital District, Circuit 5), and Elias Jaua (Miranda, Circuit 6). Perhaps most notably was the election of Hugo Carvajal (Monagas, Circuit 2), who was arrested last year in Aruba on suspicion of drug trafficking.
Primaries Not Without Controversy
Yesterday’s primaries were notable not only by the alleged turnout, but also by two notable events.
First, shortly after Maduro voted at his electoral district in Caracas, he told reporters that the PSUV would be able to see who voted and who did not, because it would have access to each district’s voter registration list. The comments were seen as vaguely threatening, since they appear to be a violation of the principle of the secret ballot, one of the pillars of free elections.
In Canada, for example, each voting centre has a list of registered electors. When an elector shows up at their designated voting centre, that elector’s name is scratched from the list, signifying that they voted. At the end of the election day, the list is sent to Elections Canada, where is it kept for at least a year. No one has access to this list except under extraordinary circumstances and with a court order.
Second, the time at which voting centres were set to close was pushed back three times. The original closing time was 6:00 PM. The time was first extended until 8:00 PM, then until 9:00 PM, and finally until 10:00 PM. Each time, the time was pushed back at the request of the PSUV.
CNE Defend’s Maduro’s Comments
Socorro Hernandez, the principal rector at the Consejo Nacional Electoral, took to the airwaves today in defence of Maduro’s comments regarding the lists of who voted in yesterday’s primaries.
During an interview on the Globovision network, Hernandez attempted to ease concerns that the PSUV might somehow be able to figure out who voted for who:
Neither the CNE nor anyone else is able to know who voted for who. The [voting machine software] takes the steps necessary to make this impossible.
Hernandez said also said that “it’s one thing to know who voted and who didn’t”, and another to know which candidate an elector voted for.
Quizzically, Hernandez said that while the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica had also requested a list of who had voted in its primaries back in May, neither it nor the PSUV had been given that information, a fact which she qualified as a good thing:
Te MUD at some point asked its electoral [list] of who had voted in its [primary] elections. Who they voted for is another issue. Same thing with the PSUV. In neither case did the organization ask to be given that information, which is a good thing.
Venezuela on the Defensive at UN Human Rights Committee
A meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council concerning Venezuela was off to a rough start for the Bolivarian government in Geneva today, as a statement signed by 30 NGOs condemned the human rights situation in the country, calling it “seriously worrying”. The statement, which was presented before the council, was signed by organizations such as Amnesty International, the International Association of Judges, and Human Rights Watch.
The statement (which can be read, in Spanish, here), singled out “extrajudicial killings, excessive use of force, torture and other abuses and arbitrary detentions; along with attacks and hostility toward journalists, human rights advocates and those critical of the authorities” as areas of concern.
One of the committee members, Victor Manuel Rodriguez-Rescia, expressed his concern on the Venezuelan case at the meeting, saying:
We are worried by the Habilitantes [laws that grant near-unlimited power to the President] in Venezuela and laws that fail to operate within a limited framework.
Rodriguez-Rescia also criticized the existence of the much-touted People’s Defender, whose role is supposed to be that of a human rights watchdog in the country. For Rodriguez-Rescia, however, the appointment of the people’s defender outside “the standards of the Constitution [and] without counting on the participation of the people” is a problem.
Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz was on hand to defend Venezuela, and said that human rights in Venezuela – particularly the rights to protest and assembly – are guaranteed by the Constitution and widely respected.
She qualified her statement by saying that while peaceful protests were allowed, those that are violent or in which participants have weapons are another issue. She criticized those who would condemn the government’s harsh response to protests, saying:
It’s unbelievable that some media outlets, politicians and so-called human rights defenders justify these horrible crimes and qualify their participants as peaceful protesters.
Olivier de Frouville, who is a Professor of Public Law at the University of Pantheon-Assas in Paris and the Director of the Center of Research on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, attended the meeting and was allegedly shocked by reports of tortured judges in Venezuela. After praising the Venezuelan government for making strides in social issues, de Frouville said:
[The Venezuelan government] can defend social justice projects while avoiding these excesses that give it such a terrible image. Even though a judge may have acted in a hostile manner towards the state, [he/she] should be treated with respect.
Venezuela Set to Legalize Gay Marriage
Diosdado Cabello said during an interview on Globovision today that he would support a National Assembly bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Venezuela. While Cabello said that he anticipated a negative reaction from the Catholic Church in Venezuela, he explained:
We have never denied [anyone] participation. On the other hand, we’ve opened doors to all Venezuelans, and we don’t judge anyone. People’s personal lives are their own concern only.
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