On Tuesday, the opposition filed paperwork with the Consejo Nacional Electoral [CNE] for the fourth time in order to get the recall referendum process against Maduro started. On that day, the CNE explained that it would release an official announcement on the status of the application today. Earlier this evening, the CNE revealed its announcement: it would wait a further three business days to make a formal decision.
The opposition needs the CNE to validate its request to start the referendum process so that it can begin the first step in the process, which is collecting signatures.
One of the CNE’s three rectors, Luis Emilio Rondon, voiced disapproval over the body’s decision to defer comment on the validity of the package. Rondon suggested that the CNE’s decision today is out of the ordinary, and that the body could easily have validated the paperwork to formally start the recall process.
Below, a video of Rondon’s comments, along with my translation:
Reporter: Beside me is rector Luis Emilio Rondon to give comments on the meeting.
Rondon: Yes. Once we finished today’s meeting, it’s important to let the Venezuelan people know that I profoundly reject the fact that today the [CNE] chose to not validate the documents given to us by the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica with the goal of acquiring the forms needed to collect signatures [to start the referendum]. This is now the fourth time that this electoral body has received such a request: the first on March 9; the second, March 15; one on April 7, and this one from April 12. Somehow, the organization [the MUD] has been able to [maneuver around] the conditions that the CNE has been creating for them.
This is why I’m saying today that what should have happened is that once the documents were verified, the forms would have been issued to allow the next step to take place, which is the preparatory face [for the recall referendum] (…) which is what happens before the referendum process.
Reporter: We’ve just heard commends from rector Luis Emilio Rondon following a meeting by the Consejo Nacional Electoral to examine the format in which the form to initiative the recall referendum will be presented to the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica.
Borges: CNE “Doesn’t Belong” to Lucena
National Assembly opposition deputy Julio Borges appeared to anticipate the CNE’s decision earlier in the day, telling reporters that the CNE “does not belong to Tibisay Lucena”, the organization’s current head. With the comment, Borges was suggesting that Lucena is working closely with PSUV officials to stall the recall referendum process as long as possible, and in so doing operating the CNE as an organization that operates on her whims.
Speaking on the CNE’s foot dragging on the recall referendum issue, Borges said:
Tibisay Lucena has been [validating] this document for a month. The CNE does not belong to Tibisay Lucena. It doesn’t belong to the rectors. We’re asking for a right that is given to us by the Constitution.
This is about [the fact that Lucena] is there to serve the people, not so that she can go around pretending to be the queen of the country. We demand once more to be granted our rights.
Maduro Declares Five-Day Weekend, Switches Time Zone
Maduro gave a speech from the Miraflores Palace today and declared Monday, April 18 a holiday with the goal of forcing businesses to close to save electricity. April 19 is the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and Maduro declared every Friday until June 6 a holiday earlier this month, meaning that Venezuela enters a five-day weekend starting tomorrow.
When making the announcements, Maduro said:
I’ve made these decisions so that they won’t affect people’s lives negatively, and I declared every Friday a holiday until June when it comes to public administration, and working hours until 1:00 PM without having to stop one single [industry]. We’re saving a really important percentage [of electricity] in order to save and overcome this situation.
While Maduro did not say exactly how much electricity the measures he has announced have saved, he did say that he expects that the April 18 holiday alone will “double” the savings.
PSUV Supporters Flock to Miraflores
Maduro’s speech came during the course of an event which saw thousands of PSUV supporters flock to Miraflores Palace in Caracas in support of Maduro against the opposition-run National Assembly. In particular, the supporters protested against a law the would partially reform the Mision Gran Vivienda, the country’s subsidized housing program. The reform would allow tenants of subsidized housing units to outright own their homes.
On the law reform, Maduro said:
We’re defending the future of the Mision Vivienda. May it never end! (…) the people have once again marched against the abuses by the National Assembly. Ahead of every law that attacks the interests of the people, we will take to the streets.
Allup: TSJ Spoiled First 100 Days
National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup said today that political interference from virtually every other branch of government made the opposition-controlled legislature less productive than it could have been. Allup explained:
Our term could have been more productive if we could count on the cooperation – or at least, the non-interference – of the executive branch, the law firm that is the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia, and the Consejo Nacional Electoral.
Deputy Julio Borges pointed out that while the PSUV-controlled National Assembly only approved three laws in all of 2015, the opposition-run legislature has approved five laws in just three and a half months: the Amnesty and National Reconciliation Law, the Central Bank Reform Law, the Nutritional Bonus Law and the Mision Vivienda Reform law.
There are currently eight more laws in the works, all of which the opposition hopes to pass this year.
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