The head of the Mesa de la Unidad Dmeocratica (MUD), Jesus Torrealba, spoke today on the Consejo Nacional Electoral‘s [CNE] apparently unwillingness to let the recall against Maduro happen, and suggested that by impeding the democratic process the organization may eventually end up with blood on its hands.

Torrealba said:

The nefarious, terrible possibility exists that the Consejo Nacional Electoral [CNE] will end up with blood on its hands. That’s what I’m saying, that’s what I’m denouncing, that’s what I’m claiming.

The MUD is asking that the CNE deploy 19,500 voting machines spread out across 6,500 voting centres around the country in order to carry out the second step of the recall referendum process against Maduro. However, since the CNE has yet to formally announce this next step, there is no guarantee that it will heed the MUD’s calls to facilitate the step.

In fact, Torrealba suggested that the CNE and the Maduro administration were “planning the approval of restrictive regulations” to make the second step of the recall process virtually impossible to complete successfully. Torrealba did not go into details regarding what these “restrictive regulations” looked like, but some possibilities have already been discussed at length in opposition circles. These regulations could include demanding that the 20% of signatures in favour of the recall be collected per state (that is, 20% of registered voters in each state should vote in favour of holding the recall) as opposed to being collected from among all registered voters nationally, restricting the collection of signatures to a single day, or deploying a very small amount of voting machines spread across an equally small number of voting centres.

Torrealba also referenced polling figures that suggest that an overwhelming majority of Venezuelans – as high as eight in ten – are in favour of recalling Maduro. Torrealba said:

If 13 million Venezuelans want to take part in a process that the CNE has designed to include only 3.9 million people [which equals 20% of registered voters], then what we’re going to see is a situation that will put social peace, the public order and even the lives of people at risk. That is what could happen.

On the urgent need for peaceful political change in the country, Torrealba said:

This can’t go on any longer. The political crisis wasn’t caused because some people want to take power from others. The political crisis started because of an economic massacre. One trillion dollars came into this country over twelve years, and they [the PSUV] stole them and blew it on parties. After 12 years of really high oil prices, today our country doesn’t even have medicine in the pharmacies or food in the markets. This is causing immense social discontent.

There will be change here not because the government will allow it or the opposition will propose it. There will be change here because this is all completely collapsing.

Three Days Behind, CNE Starts Meeting Three Hours Late

The CNE had previous announced that it would reveal the exact date and logistical information for the second step of the recall referendum against Maduro no later than September 16. As of the writing of this post (8:35 PM Caracas time) the CNE has yet to make its announcement, meaning that it is at least three days behind its own schedule.

What’s more, while the CNE had announced that they would meet today at 2:30 PM to finalize the details of the much-awaited announcement, today’s meeting did not actually start until 5:30 PM.

CNE rector Luis Rondon – widely recognized as the only pro-opposition rector in the organization – assured Venezuelans earlier today that the body would make its announcement today on the details of the second step of the referendum process against Maduro.

MERCOSUR Meets at UN Without Venezuela

The foreign ministers of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay – all MERCOSUR nations – met today for the first time after vetoing Venezuela’s presidency of the organization last week. The ministers met in New York City amid the United Nation’s General Assembly, which kicks off this week.

El Nacional reports that Venezuela was not invited to participate in the meeting. Jose Serra, Brazil’s foreign minister, said that the topic of Venezuela came up during the meeting:

We didn’t talk about Venezuela. What we talked about was the desire to make sure that the matter of Venezuela doesn’t get in the way [of MERCOSUR’s regular business].

Standard & Poor’s: Latest PDVSA Move “Tantamount to Default”

The Standard & Poor’s (S&P) rating agency called PDVSA’s move to conduct a bond swap would be “tantamount to default” if completed. The comment comes after PDVSA offered investors on Friday the opportunity to swap their bonds due in 2017 for $7.1 billion dollars in bonds due in 2020. In essence, PDVSA asked its investors for three extra years to pay back their bond investments, a move S&P qualified as a “distressed exchange”. As collateral for the transaction, PDVSA offered its shares in Citgo, Venezuela’s oil refinery branch.

PDVSA’s request resulted in S&P downgrading PDVSA’s credit rating from CCC (“vulnerable to nonpayment”) to CC (“highly vulnerable to nonpayment”). The downgrade serves as a warning to investors that they may not see their money back if they chose to invest it in PDVSA.

S&P also said:

The outlook is negative, reflecting a downgrade potential if the company completes the exchange offer, which we classify as tantamount to default.

PDVSA’s bonds were down at trading today.

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