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Late this afternoon, TalCual revealed that the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) added an extra barrier to the successful completion of the second step of the recall referendum process against Maduro. The body now demands that when Venezuelans go to sign in favour of holding a referendum against Maduro on October 26, 27 and 28, their identities must be verified by scanning eight of their fingers as opposed to the usual way which involves just the two thumbs.

When Venezuelans participate in an electoral process – be it an election or a referendum process – they verify their identities by scanning their fingerprint on a machine. The machine, which normally scans both thumbs, verifies the voter’s identity before he or she is able to cast a ballot.

For the first step of the recall process against Maduro which took place in May of this year and required the collection of signatures from 1% of registered voters, the CNE required that voters only scan one of their thumbs.

The news of the four-finger verification process comes from TalCual, an online publication that managed to gain access to the CNE manual for the October electoral event. According to TalCual, article 10 of the manual states that electors must have their “fingerprints from the thumb to the index finger on both hands” scanned before they are allowed to vote.

It is not immediately clear with the CNE has decided to move to the eight finger scan at this time. However, both TalCual and El Nacional point out that the overall effect the extra scrutiny will have on the recall process in October is that it will cause considerable slowdowns at fingerprint scanning machines as more fingers need to be scanned.

The CNE manual in question can be found here, in Spanish.

CNE Limits 70 Electors Per Machine After 2:00 PM

The same manual limits the number of electors that a single fingerprint machine can process after 2:00 PM to 70.

Page three of the document states:

The [process] will take place on Wednesday 26, Thursday 27 and Friday 28 of October 2016, on a schedule from 8:00 in the morning to 12:00 noon, and from 1:00 to 4:00 in the afternoon. To this effect, at 2:00 PM of each day, 70 electors will be counted per Punto de Recepcion [literally, “reception point”, which in this case means “fingerprint scanning machine”], and they will be able to enter and [vote] until 4:00 in the afternoon, which is the formal closing time.

The hard limit on the number of people who can vote poses more challenges for the opposition, who need to collect approximately 3.8 million signatures over a period of just 21 hours.

Since the CNE only approved the deployment of 5,392 fingerprint scanners for the October electoral event, the maximum number of votes the opposition can hope to gather during 6 of the 21 hours allotted for the process is 377,440. With this new restriction, the opposition has just 15 hours to collect approximately 3.4 million signatures.

Maduro, Kerry Meet in Colombia

Maduro met with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Cartagena, Colombia, while the two were attending the historic peace deal signing between the Colombian government and the FARC.

John Kirby, a spokesperson for the US Department of State, said of the meeting:

Kerry expressed his concern over the economic and political challenges affecting millions of Venezuelans, and urged Maduro to work constructively with opposition leaders to face these challenges.

Foreign Affairs Minister Delcy Rodriguez tweeted the following message after the even, which included a picture of the meeting:

President Nicolas Maduro held a respectful meeting with John Kerry. We affirm bilateral dialogue through commissioner Tom Shannon.

In her tweet, Rodriguez referenced US Department of State Under Secretary for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon, who has been involved in facilitating talks between Caracas and Washington since this past summer.

Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles reacted to Maduro’s visit to Colombia with criticism, calling him a hypocrite for travelling to the neighbouring country to celebrate peace while plunging Venezuela into chaos. Capriles said:

If there’s one person who can’t talk about peace it’s Maduro. It’s hypocritical for Maduro to talk about peace when he’s declared war on Venezuela by stopping the recall referendum from happening. Those of us who want change are the 80%, and we’re stronger than the 20% who are represented by the elite who refuse to leave power.

Hotel Bookings Down 50% This Summer

Jose Antonio Yapur, the head of the Consejo Superior de Turismo [Tourism High Council] (CONSETURISMO) said that hotel bookings were down 50% between June and September of this year compared to their 2015 levels.

Yapur blamed the severe economic crisis gripping the country for the disappointing figures, saying:

The number of reservations has been falling more than in previous years, and we’ve found that many clients have told us that tourism wasn’t their priority, but rather how to face the serious food scarcity crisis affecting the country.

Yapur also said that the hardest-hit hotels were located further away from urban centres. He said that hotels in Tachira and Merida states – which are on one extreme of the country from the urban areas of Caracas and Valencia – saw a decrease in hotel bookings of 70%.

Maduro: Allup is “Public Enemy Number One”

Speaking on his weekly television show this evening, Maduro called National Assembly president Henry Ramos Allup “public enemy number one” while celebrating the first day of the school year.

While inspecting textbooks, uniforms and other elementary school materials, Maduro said:

How many t-shirts and pants has Ramos Allup had made? (…) We have to make things personal. The boss and the leader of evil in this country and at this moment — the one who foams at the mouth insulting women, insulting the people and trying to do more and more harm has a first and last name. His name is Henry Ramos Allup, and he’s public enemy number one. That’s what I believe.


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