The Voluntad Popular opposition party confirmed today that it had agreed to present its candidates on a unified ballot along with the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica in the December 6 parliamentary elections. Leopoldo Lopez, Venezuela’s most famous political prisoner, is the leader of Voluntad Popular.
The Mesa de la Unidad Democratica is made up of several parties, and while most had already agreed to present their candidates on a unified ballot, Voluntad Popular remained as the largest and most popular party to refuse to do the same.
Voluntad Popular‘s national coordinator, Freddy Guevara, made the announcement today during a press conference, saying:
We are here today to say that Voluntad Popular has joined the unified ballot as a way to seal this historic compromise (…) we will be the ones to make urgent change a necessity. The people cannot continue to sit around and wait for things to improve.
The fact that opposition parties have agreed to appear on a unified ballot is significant because voters will now have the option to vote for either a PSUV candidate or a MUD candidate. The idea of the unified ballot is to diminish the kind of vote splitting that might allow an incumbent to remain in power with fewer votes than his opponents.
Torrealba Gives Ballot Details
The head of the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica, Jesus Torrealba, broke the news late last night during his own press conference.
Torrealba announced that the unified ballot will allow all opposition candidates to draw from the same pool of resources when campaigning, and that he appreciated the debate that took place within the individual parties inside the MUD regarding the virtues and faults of the unified ballot.
He also said that once the National Assembly is won, the MUD would work to ‘”renovate” the Tribunal Supreme de Justicia [Supreme Court] and the Consejo Nacional Electoral [National Electoral Council] within the first half of 2016.
In a hypothetical scenario in which a hostile executive or judicial branch attempt to block legislature passed through the a MUD-controlled National Assembly, Torrealba reminded listeners that the Constitution provides tools for just such situations:
If any other powers attempts to block the solutions to the crisis that the national representatives will propose in the new National Assembly, its head will activate the mechanisms provided to us in the Constitution to resolve such a situation. These mechanisms are the constitutional amendment, constitutional reform, the recall referendum or the Constituent Assembly. The constitutional mechanism chosen will depend on the given situation, and we would select the fastest and most inclusive one, as well as the one that could generate the highest level of participation and stability. Within the Constitution, everything; outside the Constitution, nothing!
At the same time, Torrealba stressed that a MUD-controlled National Assembly would act “democratically”, and that it would respect the inclusion of the PSUV in the legislative chamber.
Torrealba also gave a broad list of the issues the MUD would tackle were it to win control of the National Assembly on December 6, including working to restart national production, restructuring the legal system to fight impunity, and taking measures to disarm gangs and “colectivos”.
Former Army Officers Arrested for Drug Trafficking
Captain (Retired) Vassyly Villarroel Ramirez and Lieutenant (Retired) Robert Alexander Pinto Gil were arrested on Monday by Venezuelan security forces on suspicion of drug trafficking. According to authorities, Villaroel had worked closely with Colombian and Mexican drug cartels. Both men served with the National Guard.
Villaroel is also accused of moving cocaine from Colombia to Mexico through Venezuela, with the goal of smuggling it into the United States. According to The Telegraph, Villarroel provided security and other resources to cocaine shipments, which would come in through the Simon Bolivar International Airport in Maiquetia.
In 2008, Villaroel was nearly arrested by security forces near El Tigre, Anzoategui state. While he managed to escape, authorities seized 30 packs of cocaine, 34 cars, 62 horses, and three rifles, all of which belonged to Villaroel.
The men join a long list of military and government officials accused of being directly involved in the drug trade. Earlier this year, PSUV Vice-President Diosdado Cabello was named as the target of a U.S. investigation into drug trafficking in Venezuela. Last year, the former head of military intelligence, Hugo Carvajal, was briefly detained in Aruba on suspicion of drug smuggling. Henry Rangel Silva, the governor of Trujillo state, was charged with drug trafficking by the U.S. in 2008; and Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, the governor of Guarico state, has been accused by the U.S. of providing aid to Colombian guerillas involved in the drug trade.
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