Venezuelans turned out by the tens of thousands today to take part in the country-wide signature drive as part of the first step in the process to recall Maduro from office.
Yesterday, the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) approved the opposition’s request to begin the recall referendum process. The first step: collecting signatures from 1% of the registered voters in each of the country’s 23 states, plus the Capital District.
Less populous states like Amazonas require only 1,026 signatures, while more populous ones like Zulia require the collection of 23,991 signatures. In total, the opposition needs to collect 195,721 signatures, which it then must turn over to the CNE for verification.
While the CNE gave the opposition 30 days to collect the signatures, Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles said earlier today that he expects that they will reach their goal much sooner:
Today, we begin the process of collecting signatures from 1% [of registered voters]. We’re not going to wait the thirty days. We’ll collect them in a matter of hours. We have to beat time; the government doesn’t want this recall.
David Smolansky, mayor of the El Hatillo municipality in Caracas, said that signature collectors there met their total goal in just three hours. In so doing, El Hatillo became the first municipality in Miranda state to meet its signature goal.
Below, some pictures of the signature drive from around the country.
Colourful tents mark the spot where workers collected signatures in Caracas:
The Macario Yepez Plaza in Barquisimeto, Lara state:
San Felipe, Yaracuy state:
Andres Bello Plaza in Guanare, Portuguesa state:
In Merida, Merida state:
Capriles: Recall Will Avoid Coup
Capriles also said that the recall referendum is an important democratic tool because he believes that it has the power to avert a coup d’etat and other potentially violent events from occurring. Capriles also said:
Each day, the people find themselves in a more difficult situation, and we don’t want a social explosion [of protests] in this country.
Capriles also called on all Venezuelans to remain calm in the face of the adversity they face, and suggested that it was in the government’s interest for violence to break out.
He also took aim at Maduro, saying:
In Miraflores [the Presidential Palace] we have a bum, a sloth, and we’re going to recall that sloth, that bum. We’re going to force him to work until we recall him.
Venezuela Risks Running Out of Money for Money
According to an article published in Bloomberg today, Venezuela’s out-of-control inflation rate is threatening to undermine the government’s ability to pay for printers to print money. As Bloomberg put it:
Venezuela, in other words, is now so broke that it may not have enough money to pay for its money.
The article points out that Venezuelan bolivares are imported from abroad, and that fast-depleting international reserves pose the serious risk that the national government will not be able to pay for money imports. The article claims that De La Rue, the world’s largest currency printer, contacted the Venezuelan national government last month because it is owed $71 million.
The article also cites figures from the Banco Central de Venezuela (Venezuelan Central Bank) showing that the number of new bills in circulation has skyrocketed since 2012. That year, approximately 1.2 million bills were in circulation. Due to the inflation crisis, there are now nearly 5 million bills in circulation.
Earlier this year, the International Monetary Fund estimated that Venezuela’s inflation rate would hit 500% this year.
Gov’t Gives Public Sector Workers Wednesday Through Friday Off
Last night, Vice-President Aristobulo Isturiz declared Wednesdays and Thursdays holidays for public sector workers. Since Fridays were declared holidays earlier this month in order to cut back on electrical consumption, yesterday’s announcement means that public sector workers will only work Mondays and Tuesdays.
Isturiz made the announcement by saying:
I’m informing you that from now – aside from Friday, which has been a holiday [for a while] – it has been decided to add Wednesdays and Thursdays in order to reduce energy consumption.
The announcement does not include vital public sector employees like doctors and police officers.
PSUV Officials: Economic Crisis Not Our Fault
Jesus Faria, the Minister of Exterior Commerce and Investment, said in a television interview earlier today that the crippling economic crisis affecting the country was caused by factors “beyond the reach and control of the government”. Faria made the comments on the television show Vladimir a la 1.
It’s a really complicated macroeconomic [issue], one of the most complicated in the last few years. But, there’s an answer that is objective and that is beyond the reach and control of the government, and that is the brutal fall in oil prices. And it’s good to remind people of that, because the people have to understand the context, specially when they’re analyzing and reaching conclusions about their evaluation of public administration, so that they can have a set of objective criteria that are free of manipulation.
When pressed by the show’s host about why the PSUV saved so little of the hundreds of billions of oil dollars that it earned over the past 17 years, Faria said:
We haven’t done it for a number of reasons. [For example]: different economic actors that are able to do that weren’t in any capacity to do so. Number two, political instability, [and] really important economic actors who weren’t interested in investing, but rather destabilizing the economy.
While Faria then appeared to backtrack and suggest that the PSUV did indeed bear some blame, he quickly reversed course and blamed other factors:
… we’ve made mistakes too, I’m not going to deny that, and in this case there is a crisis [that comes from] a model that is not the socialist model. Some out there say crazy things, like the socialist model is in crisis. No, what’s in crisis is the rentier model, the capitalist model that we inherited from the past.
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