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Socorro Hernandez, one of the rectors at the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE), appeared in an interview on Globovision’s Vladimir a la 1  show today. Hernandez spoke on the CNE’s list of demands for the second step of the recall referendum process against Maduro which were released on Wednesday. Hernandez made a number of statements that appear to directly contradict the CNE’s Wednesday announcement, casting even more doubt and controversy onto the matter.

One of the main points of contention over the CNE’s announcement has to do with the requirement that signatures from voters in favour of holding a referendum against Maduro be collected at the state level.

This requirement – which contradicts the wording in Article 72 of the Constitution – makes the task of collecting the signatures incredibly difficult, since instead of collecting signatures from 20% of all registered voters, the opposition must now collected signatures from 20% of registered voter in each of the country’s 23 states. The requirement is widely regarded as a way to multiply the opposition’s chances of failure by 23, since failure to collect signatures from 20% of voters in just one state would presumably result in the end of the recall effort.

However, during today’s interview, Hernandez suggested that if every state manages to meet the 20% requirement but one does not, the referendum should still take place. Hernandez said:

If one state doesn’t collect the 20% but the rest of the country does, there should be a referendum.

Hernandez’s comment directly contradicts the CNE’s announcement of Wednesday and casts even more ambiguity onto the process. It’s not at all clear if the same exception would be made if two, three or more states failed to meet the 20% requirement, or why the CNE would set out that requirement at all if its willing to overlook one state failing to meet it.

Hernandez Attempts to Justify “By State” Requirement

Article 72 of the Constitution says that for a recall referendum to take place, 20% of registered voters “in the pertinent circumscription” (i.e., municipality for recalling mayors, state for recalling governors, and the nation for recalling the president) must sign in favour of holding the referendum. When confronted with the fact that “the pertinent circumscription” for a presidential referendum is not the state, Hernandez replied:

Article 4 says that there is a federal state.

Hernandez was referring to Article 4 of the Constitution, which reads:

Article 4: The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is a decentralized Federal State on the terms set forth in this Constitution, governed by the principles of territorial integrity, cooperation, solidarity, attendance and shared responsibility

Her attempted justification appears to suggest a fundamental misunderstanding of the word “state”. Like in English, the word has many meanings, but for the purposes of governance and jurisdiction the two below are relevant:

  • Of or relating to the central civil government or authority (ex., Maduro is the Head of State; the head of the Venezuelan state).
  • Made, maintained, or chartered by or under the authority of one of the commonwealths that make up a federal union (ex., the states of Aragua, Miranda, Zulia, Yaracuy, etc. make up Venezuela).

Not Date Yet for Regional Elections

During the same interview, Hernandez explained that the CNE has not yet decided on a date for the regional elections, which given the term limits for state legislatures and governorships must take place this year.

Flores’ Associate Also Had Diplomatic Passport

El Nacional published an article today in which it revealed that one of the associates of Efrain and Francisco Flores – Maduro’s nephews currently on trial in New York City for attempting to smuggle 800 kilograms of cocaine into to the United States –  had a Venezuelan diplomatic passport. The associate was called Mohammed Khalil Abdul Razzak Yanez, and was murdered in October of last year.

The information comes from sworn testimony from the Flores’ trial, and reveals that Yanez (who was also known as Hamudi) was a member of the PSUV and a leader of the Unidad de Batalla Bolivar-Chavez (UBCh) in San Antonio de los Altos, Miranda state. The UBCh are a militia force created and organized by the PSUV.

According to El Nacional, Hamudi carried a Venezuelan diplomatic passport with the number #0053082 issued in 2009, and used it to travel to Paris in 2009 and 2010. Hamudi also used the passport to fly to Lima in 2010, as well as Frankfurt. It is not clear why Hamudi had a diplomatic passport.

Hamudi appeared on the DEA’s radar as early as 2012. During their flight from Haiti to New York City after their arrest in November 2015, DEA agents questioned Francisco and Efrain about their connection to Hamudi. Efrain said that the cocaine they were trying to smuggle into the US came from Colombia via the FARC, and that the delivery would be facilitated by Hamudi.

Efrain and Francisco were arrested by DEA agents in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on November 11, 2015. They were carrying diplomatic passports, and were on a trip to meet an undercover DEA agent to arrange the delivery of cocaine to the United States.

MUD To Make Announcement on Recall on Monday

The Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) will make its official response to the CNE’s Wednesday announcement on Monday. The head of the MUD, Jesus Torrealba, said today that Monday announcement would signal a “critical change” for Venezuelans, but he did not elaborate further.

The announcement came at the same time as the Voluntad Popular (VP) party called for a “great national civil struggle movement” to force the CNE to adhere to both the Constitution and its internal regulations and allow the referendum against Maduro to take place this year.

In a press release, VP said that Wednesday’s announcement from the CNE was damaging to the country not only because it violates the Constitution, but also because it forces all Venezuelans to do the same by following it:

[The announcement] is bad not only because it’s illegal, but because it’s trying to get all Venezuelans to collectively as a people violate and disrespect the Constitution.


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