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Last week, the National Assembly summoned Minister of Nutrition Rodolfo Marco Torres twice to provide a balance of the country’s food situation amidst the worst scarcity crisis in decades. Both times, Marco Torres ignored the legislature’s request.

As a result, the National Assembly passed a voto de censura against the minister. Akin to a vote of no confidence, the voto de censura mandates that the president remove the target of the measure from his or her post.

Yesterday, Maduro issue a presidential decree stating that the National Assembly no longer had the power to conduct votos de censura against ministers, effectively stripping it of one of its powers and at the same time strengthening the power of his office. The decree was published under the number 2,309, and it reads:

Motions of censure that the National Assembly could agree to against [Ministers], or against the executive Vice President to request their removal are restricted and deferred.

The decree claims that it will be in effect until the economic emergency decree – which was declared by Maduro earlier this year – ends.

The decree also means that Rodolfo Marco Torres will remain as Minister of Nutrition despite the motion against him.

MUD: Decree “Violates Constitution”

The Mesa de la Unidad Democratica responded to the decree by pointing out that it violates Article 246 of the Constitution, which reads:

Article 246: The approval of a motion to censure a Minister by at vote of at least three fifths of the members present at the National Assembly means the removal [of that Minister]. The official that is removed cannot be a Minister or Vice-President for the rest of the presidential term.

The head of the MUD, Jesus Torrealba, summarized his opinion of the decree, saying:

In other words, the gentleman  has been removed, and then after Mr. Maduro – in open defiance of not only the National Assembly but also the Constitution – refuses to remove him.

Cabello: Pro-Referendum Public Officials “Should Not Keep Their Jobs”

PSUV vice-president Diosado Cabello spoke in an interview with Radio Nacional de Venezuela this morning on the ongoing recall referendum process.

Cabello stressed the fact that the government would closely examine each of the 1.85 million signatures the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) received yesterday “one by one”, and then reminded listeners that everyone who signed the recall referendum form must verify their own signature with the CNE.

Cabello then said that any public official who signed the form “should not keep their jobs”. It is not clear whether Cabello met any public official at any level/branch of government, or if he meant higher-ranking officials.

The comment contains hints of the infamous Tascón List. In 2003, faced with his own recall referendum, President Hugo Chavez authorized National Assembly deputy Luis Tascón to publish the list of the 2.4 million Venezuelans who signed the petition to have Chavez recalled. The publication of the list led to widespread discrimination at public institutions against employees whose names appeared on the list.

During the interview, Cabello also reiterated his commitment to ensuring that the opposition never again governs Venezuela, saying:

They will never again govern this country.

PSUV Deputies Files Motion With TSJ To Nullify National Assembly

PSUV deputy Pedro Carreño announced today that he had filed a lawsuit at the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia [Supreme Court] (TSJ) seeking to nullify National Assembly sessions, essentially declaring the country’s legislative branch illegal.

Carreño’s lawsuit appears to be aimed at halting all legislative work at the National Assembly. Earlier in the day, Carreño, which voted to summon Zulia state governor Francisco Arias Cardenas to the legislature to explain where taxpayer money sent to the state destined for public works that were never constructed ended up.

As the vote took place, Carreño – along with the rest of the PSUV bench – got up and left the National Assembly in protest.

Lucena: CNE Begins Counting – Not Verifying – Signatures

The head of the CNE, Tibisay Lucena, announced earlier today that the electoral body had merely begun to count the 1.85 million signatures that the opposition handed over as part of the recall referendum process against Maduro, not verify them. The distinction is important because it adds extra time to the referendum process, which the opposition says must occur this year.

Lucena said that her office had received 80 boxes of forms containing signatures, and that:

We are counting the forms alongside witnesses from both sides. The process will take three days. We will keep you informed. The recall referendum has not yet been activated. Political rights are being guaranteed.

Lucena also warned the opposition that the CNE “will not be blackmailed by anyone”, and that that her office was the victim of “media aggression” by the MUD, which continues to mount pressure on the electoral body to get on with the referendum process. According to Lucena:

… over three of four days – or maybe by Monday or Tuesday – we will count the forms.

Infamous Gang Leader “El Picure” Dies in Shootout

Venezuela’s most wanted criminal – Jose Antonio Tovar Colina, a.k.a. “El Picure” – was killed in a shootout with security forces yesterday after four years on the run. The confrontation occurred in the town of El Sombrero, Guarico state, after agents from the Direccion General de Contrainteligencia Militar (National Military Counterintelligence Directorate) [DGCIM] and the National Bolivarian Guard located and cornered the man.

The security forces also killed El Picure’s brother, along with 9 other members of his gang. The final showdown with the gang leader occurred after a group of at least 50 gang members attacked a local police outpost.

El Picure’s gang was estimated to have at least 80 members, and its leader was wanted in a string of murders, as well as in relation to drug trafficking and weapons charges. The gang had been active since at least 2008.


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