Yesterday, Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) rector Tania D’Amelio announced that even if the opposition handed in all of the signatures it has collected for the recall referendum against Maduro this week, the CNE still had to wait 30 days before starting the verification process.
When the CNE gave the go-ahead for the signature collection process on Tuesday of last week, it gave the opposition 30 days to collect approximately 195,000 signatures. The opposition managed to collect 1.85 million signatures in less than a week, and turned the signatures over to the CNE earlier today.
D’Amelio’s surprise announcement became evidence for some that the rector is purposely trying to delay the process due to her partisanship. National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup reacted to D’Amelio’s comments by saying:
Let no one doubt that CNE rector Tania D’Amelio is an unconditional PSUV militant and activist, and she’s trying to stop the recall referendum from happening this year.
D’Amelio is one of the CNE’s three rectors. Along with the president and vice-president of the body, they make decisions regarding electoral matters in the country.
Rector Rondon Contradicts D’Amelio
One of the CNE’s other rectors, Luis Rondon, responded almost immediately to D’Amelio’s comments, and contradicted her by saying that the verification process could take place immediately upon receiving the signatures. Rondon explained through his Twitter account, saying:
For those who are wondering: the rules point to a 30 day period for the collection of 1% of [signatures], not a term. Once received, the CNE initiates the verification [process].
Later, Rondon said that the CNE will need five days to verify only that signatures have been collected from at least 1% of registered voter per state, as the CNE claims is the regulation. Once this verification has been completed, the CNE will set up verification centres in each state, which citizens must visit in order to verify for themselves that they have indeed signed the recall referendum form. According to Rondon, this process will involve the use of fingerprint scanners to math the voter’s fingerprints with those on the recall forms.
Rondon said that once this process is complete, the opposition must collect signatures from 20% of electors, which totals 3,966,144 people. Once those signatures have been collected and verified, the recall referendum must take place within 90 days.
Caracas Chronicles: CNE Made Up Rules
An investigation by the Caracas Chronicles website has discovered that the CNE appears to be either ignorant of or making up at least some of the requirements for the recall referendum.
According to official documentation uncovered by Caracas Chronicles, the requirement that 1% of registered voters in each state sign a form voicing their desire to hold a recall referendum is simply not found in the regulation that the CNE cites.
Caracas Chronicles points out that this “1% rule” actually comes from a section of the regulations that is altogether unrelated to recall referendums, which reads:
Citizen groups may be formed equalling or exceeding one percent (1%) of the population registered in the Electoral Registry of the municipality, state, or the nation, depending on the case corresponding to the official whose mandate they seek to revoke. […]
The website argues that the above section clearly states that the 1% of signatures correspond to “the municipality where that specific official was elected“. This means that the opposition needed to collect only 1% of signatures from all registered electors at the national level, not 1% of signatures of registered electors per state as the CNE demanded. As Caracas Chronicles points out:
How you read that paragraph to mean we need to collect 1% of the vote in each of the component parts of a jurisdiction is simply senseless and bizarre. And why stop at states? Why not 1% of each municipality? Of each parroquia? Of the catchment area for each voting center?…
The regulation that the CNE claims governs the recall referendum process is Resolution #070906-2770, which you can find here, in Spanish.
Opposition Hands Signatures Over to the CNE
This morning, Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles said that there was a team of 600 volunteers who were checking all of the signatures and related paperwork to make sure that it adheres to the stringent rules set out by the CNE.
Later in the day, the head of Mesa de la Unidad Democratica, Jesus Torrealba, confirmed that the signatures had been delivered to the CNE in the early morning hours.
Torrealba confirmed that the opposition had collected 1.85 million signatures throughout the country, much more than the 195,721 the CNE required. He also said that while the CNE gave the opposition 30 days to complete the task, the opposition managed to do it in “record time”.
Looking forward to the next stage of the referendum process, Torrealba said:
We will also complete it in record time, because the country wants out from this government.
Torrealba also posted a picture showing what appears to be a skid of boxes which presumably contain the signature forms:
The CNE now has give days to verify the signatures before the next step of the referendum process can begin.
Falcon: The Gov’t “Lost the Streets”
Lara state governor Henri Falcon told El Universal that the national government has “lost the street”, meaning that it can no longer count on support from the average Venezuelan.
When El Universal asked Falcon, “How do you see the situation in the country? What’s your evaluation of this political moment?”, Falcon replied by saying:
I go out for a walk in Barquisimeto at 5:00 AM, and at that time I see at least six lines [at supermarkets and other establishments]. What do you see there? Poor people. People who, if they’re there at 5:00 AM, got up at 3:00 AM. What you see there are the people who turned out massively for the first stage of the [recall referendum process]. And that will happen at every stage, because the government has lost the legitimacy that comes from the streets. It lost the streets, because it dug in with its ideological complex; it deepened its radical posturing.
The people don’t buy that anymore. The people want solutions for their problems [and] less rhetoric. They want tranquility and peace, medicine, food, gas, electricity, water, and to live the way that citizens normally live in any country. We are living through a very complex situation.
Falcon also pointed out that he believes that the situation in the country today is “ten times worse” than what Venezuela was going through just before El Caracazo in 1989, a series of protests that left hundreds dead. He also said that while he hopes that the recall referendum process will help bring a peaceful end to the crisis in the country, he also feared the worst:
We’re betting on the recall, but God forbid that tomorrow there’s a social explosion on the streets that leads to a civil war.
When asked about Maduro’s repeated claims that the recall referendum is doomed to fail, Falcon said:
People aren’t buying that anymore [“La gente no esta comiendo casquillo”]. That was before. The chavista and the opposition [supporter] are suffering just the same; the one from the right and the one from the left. This is a matter of inability. People want solutions, not confrontation. Less confrontation and more solutions, because everyone is going hungry equally. People are going hungry and kids are malnourished, and whoever denies that this isn’t true should go see a Bolivarian school.
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