Earlier today, the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) handed in the paperwork officially requiring that the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) start the second step in the recall referendum process against Maduro: collecting signatures from 20% of registered voters.
The news was announced by National Assembly Deputy Luis Florido, and said that the act was “defended by the people of Venezuela” through their continued desire for change.
The CNE is now expected to take at least 30 working days to decide whether or not the paperwork is in order and the second step can begin.
At the same time, Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles said that he would announce the details later tonight for demonstrations expected to take place tomorrow and Thursday to demand that the CNE stop dragging its feet on the referendum.
High-Ranking Gov’t Officials Implicated in Drug Trade
The U.S. Department of Justice unsealed an indictment yesterday against Nestor Luis Reverol Torres and Edylberto Jose Molina Molina, over allegations that the two men were involved in the drug trade between 2008 and 2010. Reverol Torres is the current head of the National Guard, and former head of the Oficina Nacional Antidrogas [National Anti-Drug Office] (ONA), and Molina is the former head of the National Guard. The indictment was originally issued on January 21, 2015, but has remained sealed since.
The U.S. Department of State issued a press release on the case, part of which reads:
According to court documents, from January 2008 to December 2010, in their then official capacities at ONA, Reverol and Molina received payments from drug traffickers in exchange for assisting the drug traffickers in distributing cocaine for ultimate importation into the United States. For example, in exchange for such payments they alerted the traffickers to future drug raids or the locations where law enforcement officers in Venezuela were conducting counter-narcotics activities to allow drug traffickers to change the location where they stored drugs or alter drug transportation routes.
The release also alleges that the two men “took steps to stop or hinder ongoing narcotics investigations”, and that they arranged for the release of captured drug traffickers and prevented their deportation to other countries to face drug trafficking charges.
The DEA special agent in charge of the investigation, James J. Hunt, said the following about the two men:
As alleged, Nestor Luis Reverol Torres and Edylberto Jose Molina Molina used their positions of power to enable drug trafficking organizations, all the while hindering law enforcement’s efforts to thwart them. Simply put, the indictments send a message that here is no difference between a drug trafficker and a drug trafficker who leads anti-narcotics trafficking efforts. Drug law enforcement working in the U.S. and overseas will continue to stop those at every level and every profession who supply or abet the distribution of poison to American doorsteps.
Today’s indictment emphasizes that no one is above the law. These former government officials allegedly used their positions of trust to feed their greed, and along the way betrayed their oath of service by warning drug traffickers of sensitive law enforcement operations. We will continue to work tirelessly with our federal and international law enforcement partners to expose criminals who attempt to cross our borders with illicit drugs.
El Aissami Defends Reverol, Molina
Aragua state governor Tareck El Aissami spoke today on the indictment against Reverol and Molina through his Twitter account.
He also voiced “all of our support and solidarity” for the two men.
Secret Footage of Lopez’s Appeal Surfaces
A secretly-recorded video showing Leopoldo Lopez speaking at his appeal hearing last week has surfaced online. The video was released by CNN, although it’s not know who actually recorded it.
Lopez’s appeal hearing took place on July 23 behind closed doors, making the video and important look into Lopez’s struggles against the Venezuela state.
The video can be seen below, along with my translation:
Lopez: [I spent] a whole year alone in a building, alone. I was the only inmate in that whole building. They’ve thrown excrement into our cells and [inaudible – sounds like vejado, which means “humiliate” or “treat poorly”] our families.
They record our conversations. They record the conjugal visits I have with my wife. They don’t just record them: they release them as well. They record the conversations that I have with my lawyer, and I have no doubt that you [the court] are aware of this, and that these recordings are used to prepare the judicial proceedings against me. We have to think about what this means, what it means for the officials from the judiciary listen to and use private, sacrosanct conversations between a lawyer and his client. I know that this is going on because I’ve seen the recording equipment.
Lopez is currently serving a 14-year prison sentence for his alleged involvement in the 2014 anti-government protests. The case against him has been marked by serious violations of due process and the rule of law, and has been denounced by international human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights.
Shortly after Lopez’s conviction in September of last year, one of the prosecutors on the case – a man named Franklin Nieves – fled Venezuela and has made repeated comments to the media stating that the case against Lopez was entirely fabricated for political reasons.
TSJ Nullifies Amazonas Deputies’ Appointment
The Tribunal Supremo de Justicia issued a ruling today nullifying a National Assembly last week that incorporated the three opposition deputies from Amazonas state into the national legislature.
The ruling came from the court’s Electoral Hall, which deals with electoral matters in the country, and calls last week’s swearing-in ceremony “a flagrant violation of the public constitutional order”.
A release issued by the TSJ partly reads:
The nation’s top tribunal also warns that it reserves all actions or legal proceedings at its disposal with the objective of demanding that the [ruling be carried out] to maintain constitutional order.
Amazonas Governor: Recalls Aren’t This Painful
The governor of Amazonas state, Liborio Guarulla, spoke in a televised interview today and said that a recall referendum process is not as painful and difficult as the one currently underway against Maduro has become. Guarulla said that he believes that the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) is purposely making the process complicated for the benefit of Maduro and the PSUV.
Guarulla pointed out that Amazonas state has hosted its own recall referendums, and that they have taken place relatively quickly and without clamor.
On the CNE’s handling of the current referendum efforts, Guarulla said:
These are mechanisms [used to] put up barriers against people participating, which are the ones who can say if we [elected officials] are doing well or doing poorly. I don’t think that it’s necessary to torture the people so much so that they can express their opinion about political leaders holding public office, and the people want change.
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