Jorge Rodriguez – the mayor of the Libertador municipality – and Aragua state governor Tarek El Aissami met at the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) today, presumably to speak with the body’s leadership regarding the announcement scheduled for today regarding the recall referendum against Maduro. On Sunday, Tibisay Lucena (the CNE’s) head said that the CNE would announce the results of the first step of the recall process today.
After the meeting, Rodriguez emerged from the CNE building and spoke with reporters. Rodriguez announced that he had requested that the CNE revoke the political organization status of the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD), the opposition bloc. Rodriguez said that he made the request because he believes that the MUD committed “the biggest electoral fraud in the country” when it collected signatures for the referendum.
Rodriguez states his position simply, saying:
The CNE is obligated to cancel the MUD’s registration [as a political party].
CNE Running the Clock on Announcement
In a nationally televised interview on Sunday, CNE chief Tibisay Lucena said that the organization would make a formal announcement on the completion of the first step of the recall referendum process today. Lucena’s announcement was also widely expected to include the date for the start of the second step of the process.
As of the writing of this entry (9:45 PM Caracas time), no such announcement has been made.
However, the MUD’s representative before the CNE, Juan Carlos Caldera, announced today that the opposition bloc had in its possession the CNE’s official report on the first step of the referendum, and that the organization had conceded that the MUD met all of the step’s requirements. The report does not appear to include an official statement on the start of the next step in the process, leaving the fate of the referendum in limbo once again.
Caldera said that the report “had been ready for a week”, and that the CNE was very obviously dragging its feet with the hopes of pushing the referendum back to 2017.
The opposition is scheduled to march to the CNE headquarters in Caracas tomorrow morning in order to demand that the organization stop deliberately delaying the process.
Varela Faces Harsh Criticism as Role of Prison Head
Minister of Penitentiaries Iris Varela is facing tough criticism from the opposition today after a report from the Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones [Venezuelan Prison Watch] (OVP) released a report saying that during the five years that she has held the post, the national government has only built two new prisons.
In 2014, the government promised to build eight new prisons by 2016, with the goal of eventually reaching 24 new prisons in the medium-term. In 2012, Chavez allotted Bs. 1.4 billion for the construction of the prisons that have yet to materialize.
At the same time, the OVP revealed that the country’s prisons are experiencing an occupancy rate of 210%, a fact the organization considers to mean “critical overcrowding”.
The overcrowding affects not only the quality of life of inmates, but also that of their guards. El Nacional reports that international standards are that the guard-to-prisoner ratio at prisons should be 1:10. In Venezuela, that ratio is 1:100.
[The Ministry of Penitentiaries] has yielded visible results, as is the application of a new regime, the pacification of jails, the creation of discipline for inmates, the control of the prisons and the elimination of weapons in the hands of prisoners. 90% of the prisons count on this system.
Varela also praised Chavez for laying the foundation on which the government was able to “deal with the issues” affecting prisons and inmates in the country.
Rodriguez Pushes “Kidnapping” Line in Flores’ Case
Jorge Rodriguez continued to push the government line that Cilia Flores’ nephews, Efrain and Francisco, were kidnapped last year. The two men were arrested in Haiti in November by DEA agents for allegedly conspiring to smuggle 800 kilograms of cocaine into the United States, and are currently awaiting trial in a New York City court.
Rodriguez’s comments come following the release of court documents which clearly outline aspects of the U.S. government’s investigation into the Flores’ activities as well as their arrest in Haiti.
What happened there was a kidnapping. A vulgar kidnapping against two people. There’s absolutely no evidence of any crime, unless you mean the crime of kidnapping that was perpetrated against these two young men.
The document released earlier this week, which was prepared by the district’s attorney, contains several pages carefully outlining the evidence of the Flores’ illicit activities. Rodriguez said that the document and everything in it was a “smokescreen”, and that its true purpose is to discredit the Maduro government.
“CW-1” Murdered in Honduras
The United States’ Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced today that an informant known only as “CW-1” was murdered last December. CW-1 played a key role in the case against the Flores cousins. Identified only as a “co-operating Honduran witness” in court documents released earlier this week, CW-1 was the one who alerted authorities to the Flores’ conspiracy, and later played an important role in the operation to capture them.
CW-1’s death was announced by a DEA agent named Sandalio Gonzalez and was reported in Honduran media. Gonzalez did not provide any details on CW-1’s death.
Freites Encourages Venezuelans To Grow Hallaca Ingredients
The hallaca is a staple of Venezuelan Christmas holiday cuisine. Entire families get together to help prepare dozens or even hundreds of hallacas in the weeks leading up to Christmas. The dish is similar to Mexico’s tamales, and is made primarily of corn flour and a stuffing that can include a host of different ingredients, including peppers, almonds, chicken, beef, and onions, among others.
Minister of Urban Agriculture Lorena Freitez said today that her office’s job during the last half of the year would be to ensure that Venezuelans would be able to produce enough ingredients to make enough hallacas for 400,000 families this Christmas, and estimated that the figure would be enough to average 100 hallacas per family.
Freitez pointed out that Venezuelans had their work cut out for them, saying:
Achieving this goal will require 3,472,000 kilograms of vegetables, mostly of short-cycle crops, meaning that in 90 days we could start harvesting.
Freitez continued, saying:
We will produce 4,960,000 kilograms of [animal protein] from vegetable [feed], meaning 80,000 pigs, 593,000 hens and 80,000 eggs.
Freitez also said that this process would also involve the creation of 30,000 “productive units” spread across 4,500 hectares found in cities throughout the country.
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