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Earlier this week, Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) rector Sandra Oblitas said that the organization was considering demanding that the opposition collect the 20% of signatures it needs to push ahead with the recall referendum against Maduro per state as opposed to simply from all registered voters at the national level.

The distinction is extremely important because of the implications that it could have for the recall process. If the CNE orders that the signatures be collected from 20% of registered voters per state, then disparities in states’ populations combined with the stress that will be placed on the opposition’s electoral machine may make the task impossible.

Venezuela is made up of 23 states and one capital district. The states vary tremendously in geographic and population size. For example, while Amazonas state covers a whopping 180,145 square kilometers, Nueva Esparta only 1,150; while Zulia state counts on 3.7 million inhabitants, Delta Amacuro only has 167,000. These disparities might stretch the opposition’s limited resources to their breaking point.

Moreover, by demanding that the signatures be collected by state, the CNE would be multiplying the changes of failing to meet the 20% requirement by 23. If only one state out of the 23 failed to collect its 20%, the CNE could call off the referendum.

If the CNE asks that the opposition collects the signatures from the national level – that is, without having to collect a set number from each state – the opposition would only need to collect approximately 3.9 million signatures, regardless of which state and in which proportion those signatures came from.

Opposition: Regulations are Clear; 20% Comes from National Level

Vicente Bello, the Mesa de la Unidad‘s (MUD) representative at the CNE, said today that Oblitas’ is simply mistaken in her interpretation of the constitution regarding the collection of signatures for the recall referendum.

Bello pointed out today that Article 72 of the Constitution is clear on which level the signatures in favour of the recall must come from. Article 72 can be seen below, with the relevant section in bold:

Article 72: All magistrates and other offices filled by popular vote are subject to revocation. Once half of the term of office to which an official* has been elected has elapsed, a number of voters constituting at least 20% of the voters registered in the pertinent circumscription may extend a petition for the calling of a referendum to revoke such official’s mandate. When a number of voters* equal to or greater than the number of those who elected the official* vote in favor of revocation, provided that a number of voters* equal to or greater than 25% of the total number of registered voters* have voted in the revocation election, the official’s mandate shall be deemed revoked, and immediate action shall be taken to fill the permanent vacancy in accordance with the provided for in this Constitution and by law. The revocation of the mandate for the collegiate bodies shall be performed in accordance with the law. During the term to which the official* was elected, only one petition to recall may be filed.

This referendum seeks to recall the President of the Republic, who is elected by all registered voters at the national level. As such, Bello argues that the phrase “pertinent circumscription” clearly means “from among all voters registered at the national level”. If the referendum sought to recall the governor of a particular state, the “pertinent circumscription” in that case would be registered voters in that same state. If a city mayor was the target of the recall, the “pertinent circumscription” would be all registered voters in that city.

Bello also claimed that with her comments, Oblitas is deliberately trying to discourage and confuse people to help keep Maduro in power:

Oblitas’ intention is to distort reality with the goal of saving Maduro, and the way to do this is to manipulate the CNE’s electoral rules to say that the 20% of signatures must come from each state in the country, and that if one region does not meet this goal, then they would cancel the recall.

Caracas Reinforced with 1,300 Police Officers; Drones, Private Flights Prohibited

Close to 1,300 police officers arrived in Caracas today to reinforce the city in anticipation of this Thursday’s opposition protest. The officers appear to have been deployed primarily to the San Pedro parish of the Libertador municipality in the east of the city, which borders the city’s western municipalities.

At the same time, the Instituto Nacional de Aeronautica Civil [National Civil Aviation Institute] (INAC) published a ban yesterday on both drones and private flights until September 5.

While INAC did not provide any reason for the ban, although it is likely that it stems from the protest planned for this Thursday, which the opposition hopes may be one of the largest in the country’s history. Banning private flights as well as drones might be an attempt to stop opposition supporters from photographing the crowds from the air.

Survey: 80.61% Say Venezuela Has No Future With Maduro as President

A survey conducted by the Hercon polling firm found that 80.61% of respondents believe that Venezuela does not have a future with Maduro as president. Only 15.29% responded in the affirmative.

Below, some more results from the same survey:

  • When asked, “Do you believe that the recall referendum as a constitutional mechanism is positive or negative when it comes to exiting the economic and political crisis that teh country is living?”:
    • “Positive”: 81.11%
    • “Negative”: 14.00%
    • “Don’t Know/Neither”: 4.89%
  • When asked, “Do you believe that the national government is afraid of the recall referendum and the gubernatorial elections?” [because they know they would lose both]:
    • “Yes”: 79.51%
    • “No”: 13.39%
  • When asked, “How would you evaluate the government of Nicolas Maduro?”:
    • “Bad/Very Bad”: 84.9%
    • “Good/Very Good”: 9.5%

The survey was conducted with a sample size of 1,200 voters between August 19 to August 26, 2016. It has a margin of error of +/- 4.8% and a confidence level of 95%. The survey can be found here, in Spanish.

CLAP Worker Speaks Out Against PSUV, CLAP System

A volunteer with the government’s much-touted Comite Local de Alimentacion y Produccion [Local Production and Nutrition Committee] (CLAP) named Rorianny Suarez from Valencia, Carabobo state appeared in an interview with El Pitazo today in which she pleads with the government to do more to help her community.

During the interview with El Pitazo, Suarez accuses CLAP authorities of taking food for themselves, and of only handing it in the hopes of receiving votes in future elections.

Below, the interview along with my translation:

Rorianny Suarez: As my hat says, I’m chavista, and right now I’m still involved in the revolutionary process. But, just as support them [the PSUV] with votes and everything, we demand that they also support us, and that they give us the food that we need.

Announcer: She calls herself Rorianny Suarez. She lives in the Bucaral neighbourhood in southern Valencia, where she is the delegate for the Comite Local de Alimentacion y Produccion, known as CLAP, a fact which she says allows her to say that this food distribution system is discriminatory.

Rorianny Suarez: They [the PSUV/CLAP leaders] only find [food] for themselves. They don’t care about the communities. They only look for us when there’s an election coming.

Announcer: She told El Pitazo what motivated her to break her silence and denounce the irregularities presented by what she calls the revolution.

Rorianny Suarez: They have to realize that we have needs, that there are people who go to bed without eating or who eat once a day. Tenemos que pasar mucha necesidad [this means, roughly, “we’re struggling a lot” or “we have lots of needs”]. Our children aren’t eating properly because all they eat is a small arepa by itself once or twice a day. There’s no milk and we can’t find anything. Sometimes we have to pay Bs. 1,500 or 2,000 in the big supermarkets so that we can get a number so that we can buy two or three bags of corn flour.

Announcer: From Carabobo state for El Pitazo, [unintelligible] Castillo.

The government announced the CLAP distribution system earlier this year. On paper, the system delivers bags of basic necessities directly to communities.


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