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The largest private business organization in the country, FEDECAMARAS, reacted with disappointment today to news from Maduro yesterday that he would extend the economic emergency decree until at least the end of the year with the goal of fixing the country’s collapsed economy.

Francisco Martinez, the president of FEDECAMARAS, pointed out to Union Radio this morning that the economic emergency decree has done nothing but “increase scarcity [and] increase inflation”, and provided as evidence the fact that lines at supermarkets for increasingly scarce goods grow larger and larger each week.

Martinez also spoke on the increasingly common phenomenon of looting, and urged Venezuelans to remain calm and resist the temptation to engage in those sorts of activities since they tend to ultimately result in the closing of the victimized establishments.

Speaking on the outlook for the country’s economy in 2017, Martinez was realistic, saying that critical flaws in the country’s economy that should have been corrected in 2014 continue to exist today, and the national government continues to show no signs of seriously attempting to address the issues. Specifically, Martinez spoke on the distortions caused by the haphazard price controls that affect basic necessities, and the complex and often indecipherable currency exchange system.

CNE Ignores Own Rules, Announces Verification Schedule

The Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) announced its schedule for the verification of nearly 2 million signatures collected by the opposition in late April in favour of recalling Maduro from office.

According to CNE rector Socorro Hernandez, the fact that the CNE only asked for approximately 195,000 signatures but the opposition handed in nearly two million will slow down the verification process considerably. Hernandez said:

We have to work with what they gave us. If they gave us that number, we have to work with that many signatures. In terms of the process, it means that we have to work with all those signatures.

Hernandez said that while the signature collecting process is over, the CNE did give the opposition 30 days to collect the signatures, a period that ends on May 26. As such, the CNE will not begin to verify the signatures until that day, meaning that the earliest possible day that the CNE can finish verifying all the signatures is June 2.

The timing of the recall referendum is extremely important. If the referendum takes place before January 10, 2017, a presidential election will be triggered. If the referendum takes place after January 10, 2017, then the vice-president of Venezuela becomes president, effectively ensuring PSUV control over the country until at least 2019.

 

Rector Rondon: CNE “Distancing Itself” From Constitution

CNE rector Luis Rondon “did not agree” with the organization’s decision to wait until May 26 to begin the process of verifying the signatures, saying in an interview on the state-owned VTV network that the decision violates the CNE’s own rules on the matter, which mandate that it verify the signatures within five days of receiving them.

Rondon explained:

I believe that the regulation does not set out an extensive verification process lasting 30 days [to set up] digitization, transcription, and quality controls to set up the database. This does not correspond to the spirit of the regulation.

Rondon said that the verification timeline unveiled by the CNE “is distancing itself from the spirit of the Constitution”.

 

Wholesale Market Looted in Maracay

Yesterday, desperate shoppers in search for scarce basic necessities looted a wholesale marked in Maracay, Aragua state. The event was captured on video, which you can see below:

The video below appears to have been taken outside of the establishment:

Allup: Voters Will Kick Maduro Out This Year

National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup spoke to reporters during an opposition march in Caracas yesterday, and stressed his belief in the fact that the recall referendum against Maduro would take place this year, and that Maduro would lose.

Allup spoke on the nature of the political struggle against Maduro and the PSUV, saying:

It’s not a struggle against politicians, it’s a struggle for the country. As long as these people are in power, things will get worse.

Allup also called on the head of the Consejo Nacional Electoral, Tibisay Lucena, to “stop making up timelines” and asked her to clearly state what the next step(s) for the referendum are.

Speaking on the overwhelming police and military response to yesterday’s peaceful march in Caracas, Allup said:

They put female police officers there [at the CNE headquarters] to see if we would attack them (…) I saw threw of them crying. I don’t know if it was due to shame or pain.

Flores Cousins Before Judge Today; Trial Set for November 7

Efrain and Francisco Franqui Flores, the First Lady’s nephews who stand accused of attempting to smuggle 800 kilograms of cocaine into the United States last year, had a hearing before a New York City judge today. The hearing last 30 minutes, and resulted in the start of their trial being set for November 7.

El Nacional reports that the “narco cousins” (as they are referred to in Venezuela media) agreed to waive their right to a future appeal on the grounds of a conflict of interest stemming from the fact that the two law firms representing each one of them are being paid by an unknown third party. The prosecution, which is headed by district attorney Preet Bharara, brought the potential conflict of interest to the court’s attention earlier this week.

The Flores cousins have been in the New York Metropolitan Correctional Centre for the past six months. They pleaded not guilty to drug trafficking and related charges at a hearing on December 17, 2015.


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