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Tibisay Lucena, the head of the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE), made her much-awaited and one-week-delayed announcement today on the next step of the recall referendum process against Maduro. However, instead of giving a date for the second step of the process – the collection of signatures from 20% of the electorate – Lucena only announced that the opposition had successfully completed the first step.

The CNE also announced that in order to begin the second step, it would have to file some administrative paperwork to formally request it. This paperwork must be filed within the next two days. Once filed, the CNE will inspect the paperwork, and if it accepts it, only then will it announce the date of the second step of the referendum process.

If the process goes as smoothly as it can, the next step could take place during the first week of September.

Meanwhile, government critics continue to charge the CNE with deliberately slowing down the recall referendum process in order to benefit the PSUV. If the recall happens before January 10, 2017 and Maduro loses, a presidential election will be called, meaning that the PSUV could lose control of the country. If, however, the recall happens after January 10, 2017 and Maduro loses, then the vice-president (a PSUV politician) will become president, thereby ensuring PSUV rule until at least 2019.

The opposition filed the original paperwork to start the referendum process back in early March.

Lopez Group Publishes Videos

Leopoldo Lopez’s YouTube account released two videos yesterday. The videos carry messages from Lopez, who is serving a 14-year prison sentence in the Ramo Verde prison outside of Caracas.

Below, the first video along with my translation:

Girl: Is there any more [food]?

Son: Mom, will things ever get better?

Knock on the door. The note the woman finds on her door reads, “I’m with you! Do not tire, because I never will! Leopoldo Lopez”.

Mom: Yes! Things will get better. Venezuela will change soon.

Girl: [teasing her brother] Why the long face?

Lopez: Fill yourselves with strength! Fill yourselves with faith! Fill yourselves with optimism, because the better Venezuela is coming!

Below, the second video along with my translation:

Wife: Honey, did you find the pills?

Husband: No. We’re going to have to go out and look for them again tomorrow.

Wife: Wow… do you think things will change one day?

Knock on the door. The note the husband finds reads, “”I’m with you! Do not tire, because I never will! Leopoldo Lopez”.

Husband: Of course things will change! This will change!

Lopez: Fill yourselves with strength! Fill yourselves with faith! Fill yourselves with optimism, because the better Venezuela is coming!

Lopez was arrested on February 18, 2014 over his alleged role in the protests that started throughout the country that month. Lopez’s trial was universally condemned as a farce by groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights, as well as international governments.

Polar Denounces “Arbitrary” Seizure of 14,000 kg of Food

Polar Enterprises, the country’s largest private-sector food producer, issued a statement today denouncing the “arbitrary” seizure of 14,000 kg of food from its warehouse in San Fernando, Apure state.

Victor Vicent, a regional manager for Polar, explained what happened:

Last Thursday at approximately 10:30 PM, a commission made up of officials from the Superintendencia Nacional de Gestión Agroalimentaria [Agro-Nutritional Matters National Superintendency] (SUNAGRO), the Superintendencia Nacional para la Defensa de los Derechos Socioeconómicos [National Superintendency for the Defense of Socioeconomic Rights] (SUNDDE) and the National Bolivarian Guard proceeded to arbitrarily appropriate 13,800 kilograms of food and products, including margarine, pasta and cleaning products in powder and bar form, of which 6,000 kilograms had already been [purchased] and were ready to be sent to our clients in Apure state.

Vient pointed out that such acts pose an “unnecessary interruption” to Polar’s operations, and that they result in a worsening of the scarcity crisis since they stop products from reaching stores.

Fight At MERCOSUR Heats Up

The government of Argentina will not recognize Venezuela’s presidency of MERCOSUR, the sub-regional trade bloc, it assumed leadership of the body on Saturday.

MERCOSUR’s presidency is granted to members on a rotating basis. Uruguay held the post until Saturday, and since rotation is based on alphabetical order, it fell on Venezuela. However, Paraguay’s Foreign Affairs Minister said on Saturday that it did not recognize Venezuela as the body’s next president, given the country’s continued disregard of human rights.

Clarin, an Argentinian news outlet, broke the story this morning. A “high-level source” in the Argentinian government told publication that the government does not believe, as Venezuela does, that the rotating presidency is automatic, and that:

Regional decisions are taken by consensus, not unilaterally.

The source claims that Argentina will make the formal argument that Venezuela did not successfully complete a series of protocols required to join the organization, and as such cannot be its president.

Later in the day, the Argentinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed the Clarin story by issuing the following statement:

Argentina considers that no country can assume the presidency pro tempore [as Venezuela did on Saturday] sin traspaso [this either means “without it being transferred to it willingly” or “without committing an infraction”], and we propose an administrative meeting to solve this problem.

On Friday, Uruguay announced that its presidency would end the following day, but it refused to name Venezuela as its successor to the post. On Saturday, the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement announcing that it had taken the position.

Uruguayan Minister of Foreign Affairs Rodolfo Nin Novoa spoke on the situation today, saying:

This is a very serious situation.

Nin Novoa took a more ominous tone by saying:

I think that we will see signs [about the future of MERCOSUR] the day that Venezuela calls for a meeting.

Amazonas Deputies Fear for Safety, Sleep in National Assembly Building

Simon Calzadilla, the National Assembly’s second vice-president, announced today that the three opposition deputies from Amazonas state who were incorporated into the legislature last week despite a supreme court ban slept in the National Assembly building last night.

Calzadilla explained:

We recommended to the three deputies that they spend the night in the Assembly building in order to guarantee their physical safety.

Calzadilla did not speak of a specific threat against the deputies.

PSUV Deputy: Gov’t “Accidentally” Adds “Obligatory” to Resolution 9855

One week after the publication of Resolution 9855, PSUV National Assembly deputy Francisco Torrealba clarified that the resolution would be changed in the coming days due to an oversight in the wording of the document. Torrealba said that the government “accidentally” added the word “obligatory” to the document, when in reality it should read “voluntary”.

Resolution 9855, published last Tuesday, creates an “obligatory” system of labour transfer that allows companies to force any worker in the country to work in the agricultural industry for a period of up to 120 days. The resolution makes it clear that workers and companies are “obligated to comply” with a request to transfer workers.

Torrealba explained that the wording was simply an oversight, and that the resolution actually establishes a completely voluntary system:

Whoever read the [resolution] carefully knows that what it sets out is in the constitution and the Ley Organica de Trabajadores y Trabajadoras [Organic Worker’s Law]. That little word [“voluntary”] was omitted. No one is going to be forced to go work anywhere against their will here if they don’t want to. When the documented was drafted, [“voluntary”] was omitted involuntarily (…) in the next fear ours, the obligatory character [of the resolution] will be struck down.

The resolution created a firestorm of criticism since, in the format in which it was originally published, appeared to set the groundwork for slave labour.


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