After weeks of unexplained delays, the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) has finally granted the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica‘s (MUD) request to begin the process to recall Maduro from the office of President of the Republic. The CNE’s announcement means that the first step in the recall referendum process can finally get underway.

MUD National Assembly deputy Julio Borges hailed the CNE’s decision today, calling it the beginning of “an irreversible process” that will see Maduro removed from office.

Through his Twitter account, Borges said:

There won’t be any change here until the government changes. They missed the opportunity to make meaningful changes, so we will recall [Maduro] this year.

Borges said that the MUD would be picking up the signature-collection forms from the CNE this afternoon in order to begin collecting signatures as soon as possible. Borges also stressed that he hoped that the MUD representatives sent to the CNE would not be met with the same level of hostility with which they have been welcomed to the CNE in previous occasions:

Now that there’s a group of deputies on their way there, we hope that the colectivos [pro-government armed groups] won’t meet us with rocks like they did that other time, or that the National Guard won’t be there trying to oppress. We’re going to pick up the forms. It’s not like they’ve simply approved the forms, but now we have to wait for them to get [printer] toner so we can actually get them. The forms must be given to us this afternoon.

The MUD has announced that it will have signing stations set up across the country starting tomorrow to begin the drive for the referendum.

Below, a smiling MUD deputy – Freddy Guevara – holds up the signature forms the CNE approved today:

Road to Recall Long, Complex

Today’s decision by the CNE allows the opposition to begin the first step of recall referendum process: collecting signatures from 1% of all registered voters. Once these 197,978 signatures are collected, the CNE will need to verify them.

Once the signatures are verified, the CNE will give the go-ahead for the opposition to collect signatures again, this time from 20% of the electorate. Once those signatures are collected and verified, the actual referendum can take place.

On the actual recall referendum, the “Yes to recall” vote must be equal or greater than the number of votes cast for Maduro in the 2013 presidential election. This means that at least 7,587,579 Venezuelans must vote to have Maduro removed from office for the recall to be successful.

Blackout Regimen Off to Rocky Start

Yesterday marked the first of forty days of rolling blackouts scheduled by the Ministry of Electrical Energy in order to help combat the energy crisis affecting the country. The blackouts are scheduled to take place throughout the country in four hour chunks, except in Caracas. However, areas of the country reported much longer disruptions to their electrical service yesterday.

In Maracaibo, Zulia state, the power went out for at least 13 hours yesterday, triggering street protests demanding the government take action to restore service. In nearby La Victoria, service was disrupted for 10 hours.

A local resident named Yare Soto voiced her discontent with the government’s plan, and told El Nacional:

Aside from being thieves, they’re incompetent. They can’t even keep to one schedule. We have to guess when they’ll punish us by cutting off our power.

Meanwhile, in San Cristobal, Tachira state, residents said that the scheduled power cuts only affected some areas of the city, when they were expecting the entire area to go dark.

In Guanare, Portuguesa state, the city went dark for two blackout “chunks”: half the city from 8:00 AM to noon, and the other half from noon to 4:00 PM.

Questions/Comments? E-mail me: invenezuelablog@gmail.com

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