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Roberto Rincon, an electoral official with the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD), spoke today on the requirement by the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) that Venezuelans wishing to vote in October favour of holding a recall referendum against Maduro must have eight fingers scanned for identity-authentication purposes.

The CNE’s requirement, which was leaked to the media yesterday, caused concern among opposition supporters  because it appeared to be simply a government ploy to sabotage the electoral process scheduled for next month. When Venezuelans signed in favour of holding a recall against Maduro earlier this year, they were only required to have their two thumbs scanned.

Rincon clarified that the eight finger scanning requirement is actually standard practice by the CNE, but that for some reason the electoral body did not make it a requirement for the first step of the recall process which took place earlier this year.

Rincon also said that he considers the requirement an advantage, since he believes that by scanning eight fingers, the CNE will be able to properly identify electors with greater success.

Ameliach: Maduro Could Name Cabello VP

Francisco Ameliach, the PSUV governor of Carabobo state, suggested on his weekly radio show today that Maduro could very easily named PSUV vice president Diosado Cabello vice president of Venezuela as early as this November.

Ameliach made the comment in light of the ongoing effort to recall Maduro. Venezuelan law states that if the recall referendum happens after January 10 of 2017 – which the CNE says will be the case – then the vice president would automatically become president. The current vice president is Aristobulo Isturiz, but there is nothing preventing Maduro from naming someone else to the post in the event of a looming recall vote.

Ameliach said:

One of the scenarios that the opposition has studied is the possibility that president Nicolas Maduro will name our friend Diosdado Cabello or anyone else vice president this November. In other words, in political terms, you would be voting for Diosdado for President of the Republic by voting “yes” in the 2017 recall.

Cabello is universally disliked by Venezuelans. A July public opinion poll found that only 2% of Venezuelans have a positive opinion of him. Cabello also scored the lowest numbers in the same poll for trust, after only 23.2% of Venezuelans said that they could trust him.

Cabello is also suspected of being directly involved in drug trafficking, as the Wall Street Journal revealed last year that US authorities suspect him of being a leading figure in a drug cartel operating inside the Venezuelan government.

Sen. Rubio Calls For Sanctions on CNE Head

US Senator Marco Rubio issued a call today for president Barack Obama to sanction Tibisay Lucena and Sandra Oblitas from the CNE and former Minister of Interior Miguel Rodriguez Torres over their alleged involvement in human rights violations.

Senator Rubio made the call via a letter which he published through his website and addressed to President Obama. The same letter calls on President Obama to demand that Maduro “immediately release all political prisoners”, schedule regional elections and allow the National Assembly do do its work.

Part of the letter – which can be found here in its entirety – reads:

Democracy requires respect for human rights. Sadly, Venezuela today is experiencing an erosion of those rights under the leadership of President Nicolas Maduro and his corrupt henchmen. The resulting implosion of Venezuela’s economy has created an unsustainable humanitarian crisis.

(…)

Politically, Maduro’s kangaroo Supreme Court has unconstitutionally limited the power of the opposition members of the National Assembly, an elected body that was duly elected by the people of Venezuela. To make matters worse, the decision taken last week by Venezuela’s National Electoral Council to reject the Venezuelan people’s desire for a recall of Maduro has shown once again the regime’s anti-democratic tactics.

Given these facts, I respectfully request that you demand that President Maduro and his government immediately release all political prisoners, including Leopoldo Lopez, schedule local elections as soon as possible, and take concrete steps to allow the elected members of the National Assembly to carry out their work.

Daniel Ceballos Transported to El Helicoide

Last night, Daniel Ceballos (one of Venezuela’s political prisoners) was transferred from the Penitenciaria General de Venezuela (PGV) prison to El Helicoide, the intelligence police jail in Caracas. Ceballos’ lawyers believe that their client will be held at El Helicoide from now on.

Juan Carlos Gutierrez, one of Ceballos’ lawyers, said that his client was transported to El Helicoide without any prior notice and without notifying either his legal team or family, which is contrary to Venezuelan law.

Gutierrez summarized the illegal nature of the move by saying:

If there is no legal notification given to the parties, then it’s illegal. He cannot be transported without a [judicial] order (…) this is a kidnapping. It could even become a forced disappearance. If we had the presumption of innocence and an open [judicial] process, this wouldn’t be able to happen.

Gutierrez also said that he presumes that the reason why Ceballos was transferred from PGV has to do with the fact that the authorities suspected that a mutiny was about to get underway in the prison yesterday.

In Venezuela, prisons are typically controlled by a head prisoner called the pran. Earlier today, the pran at PGV, a man named Franklin Hernandez, said that the prisoners were in fact not planning a mutiny, but that authorities were trying to blame them for “some grenades that went missing”.

Ceballos now joins other political prisoners held in El Helicoide, including Manuel Rosales, Yon Goicoechea, and Delson Guarate, all opposition political leaders.


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