The Mesa de la Unidad Democratica reacted to yesterday’s stunning victory of the “No” vote in the Colombian plebiscite on a peace accord that would have ended over fifty years of violent conflict with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias Colombianas (FARC). The deal involved the participation of the Venezuelan and Cuban governments on behalf of the leftist guerrillas.
The head of the MUD, Jesus Torrealba, suggested that the “No” victory reflects poorly on the influence of Cuba and Venezuela in the region, saying:
[This plebiscite] can be added to the long list of defeats for castro-chavismo in Latin America. The fall of Lula and Dilma, Cristina [Kirchner’s] eclipse, Evo [Morales’] defeat, Rafael [Correa’s] announcement that he will not run for re-election, and Maduro’s disaster at MERCOSUR are all evidence of a tendency: the collapse of corrupt populism falsely carrying the banner of progressiveness.
National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup also spoke on the news from Colombia. He said that by voting “No”, Colombians were not necessarily voting against peace: rather, they were voting against the particular terms of the accord. Allup said:
Colombians have not rejected peace, but rather the text [of the agreement] proposed by [Colombian President Juan Manuel] Santos and the FARC spokespeople.
Raul Castro, [Juan Manuel] Santos and the narco-terrorist guerrilla [FARC] are the big losers.
Colombians rejected the deal in a vote yesterday which would have put an immediate end to hostilities between the guerrillas and the Colombian government. The “No” vote narrowly won (with 50.2% of the vote). Some Colombians who voted “No” took issue with the fact that the peace accord would allow many FARC members to avoid criminal prosecution, as well as guarantee them ten seats in Congress until 2026.
Allup also pointed out the fact that the Colombian government was able to successfully organize and hold a national plebiscite in which over 13 million people voted in a span of just six weeks, while in Venezuela the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) is 9 months into an electoral process that may eventually take place as late as March of 2017.
Rodriguez: “War Propaganda” Defeated Plebiscite
Minister of Foreign Affairs Delcy Rodriguez spoke to reporters today about yesterday’s vote in Colombia, saying that the plebiscite had been defeated in part due to “war propaganda” against the “yes” vote. She also said that she was confident that President Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC would be able to come to another understanding.
I’m very sorry. What happened yesterday was that a minority that is the product of media attacks, the persistent psychological war, propaganda war, expressed itself.
She also noted the fact that regions most affected by FARC activity tended to vote overwhelmingly “Yes” on the peace accord.
Rodriguez Takes Complaint Against Allup to Public Ministry
Rodriguez also had time this morning to take a complaint against Henry Ramos Allup to the Public Ministry, accusing him of vilipendio, which translates roughly into “contempt” or “abuse/humiliation” of Venezuela. Rodriguez’s motion also contained accusations that Allup violated the Constitution and committed “crimes against women”.
In Venezuela, legal action against an individual can begin in two ways. The first is that the individual is caught by police in the act of committing a crime. The second is that a citizen bring a formal complaint to the Public Ministry, which can result in the Public Ministry initiating a formal investigation into the individual in question.
Rodriguez explained her reason for bringing the complaint against Allup forward, saying:
[He] attacks not only the Constitution, but also public institutions (…) he abuses the institutions, he abuses the President of the Republic who is the one who has exclusive power to conduct international relations. He [Allup] clothes himself in responsibilities that are exclusively within the power of the President of the Republic, and he asks for [foreign] intervention in Venezuela. This does violence to the Constitution.
She also spoke specifically on the allegation that Allup somehow abuses women, an allegation that seems to come from the fact that Allup will often direct criticism and top-ranking women in government, including Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz and the head of the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE), Tibisay Lucena. Rodriguez said:
From a misogynistic position he attacks women and gender (…) he also attacks gender, not only against me, but also against women who hold public office in the country’s different institutions.
Allup: “Sex Doesn’t Absolve Criminal Responsibility”
Allup was quick to react to Rodriguez’s trip to the Public Ministry. In a series of tweets, Allup said:
[Delcy Rodriguez] accuses me of supposed misogyny because I’ve spoken out about crimes committed by the regime’s female officials. Sex does not absolve criminal responsibility.
[Delcy Rodriguez]: if anything is misogynist it’s your regime, which starves women of all ages to death, from the newborn to the elderly.
[Delcy Rodriguez]: If a woman commits a crime she is as responsibly as a man, or as any member of any gender. Deje de pirateria [this idiom means something like, “quit fooling around” or “get real”].
Maduro Asks TSJ For Power To Approve Budget
Maduro filed a motion with the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ) today asking for the court’s opinion on whether or not he can approve his own budget fort the 2017 calendar year. Maduro filed the motion before the Constitutional Chamber, which is the supreme court’s most powerful section as it alone can rule on constitutional matters.
According to the constitution, the National Assembly must debate and approve all national budgets:
Article 187: It is the National Assembly’s job to:
6. Discuss and approve the national budget and every law project concerning the tax system and public funds.
As per custom and in adherence to the constitutional article above, the executive presents its yearly budget before the National Assembly at the beginning of the legislative year, which begins in mid-January.
With today’s motion, Maduro is essentially seeking permission from the TSJ to pass his own budget in spite of what the constitution says.
Maduro made the announcement during a televised speech today, during which he said that nest year’s budget would “break the record” for most spending on social programs:
Social spending in the 2017 budget is breaking the record. 70% of the budget will be for social and economic development in the country.
During the same speech, Maduro argued that the economic emergency he declared and extended four times this year – also without parliamentary approval in spite of what the constitution demands – gives him the power to approve his own budget. He said:
I need the TSJ to tell me how to do the country’s budget. I have within my power the Economic Emergency Decree [to approve] the budget so that nothing will come to a stop, but I need a constitutional opinion so that I don’t commit even a single error.
If the TSJ were to rule in favour of Maduro, he would gain the power to use Venezuela’s funds without any kind of oversight.
Transit Strikes Shuts Down Caracas Again
Public transport drivers in Caracas walked off the job today for the second time in three weeks and instead headed to an “extraordinary assembly” to discuss government-set fare prices many of the drivers argue are not enough to earn them a living.
The assembly was held in the la Vega neighbourhood of Caracas shortly before noon.
The mayor of the Libertador municipality, Jorge Rodriguez, attended the meeting, and agreed to increase the price of fares in Caracas from Bs. 45 to Bs. 60. Once the agreement was reach, the public transport drivers returned to work.
Hugo Ocando, a spokesperson for the striking workers, said that the union representing the transportation workers hopes that the government will agree to a fare increase to Bs. 80 in November and Bs. 100 in December.
Ban Ki-Moon Calls on Maduro to “Listen” to Protesters
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon spoke today on the ongoing crisis in Venezuela, and called on Maduro to “listen” to the concerns expressed by Venezuelans. Speaking from a press conference in Geneva, he said:
I know that the economic situation is really difficult, but the protests by the people – not just those [organized] by the political parties – should be taken into very serious consideration.
Ki-Moon also said that the Venezuelan government should “listen to the people”, and that the government should also “respect the freedom of the [National] Assembly and media freedom”.
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