Venezuela awoke today reeling from yesterday’s decision by the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) to postponing the recall referendum against Maduro “until further notice”. Along with the CNE’s decision to [url=http://www.el-carabobeno.com/noticias/articulo/145930/cne-elecciones-regionales-y-municipales-se-realizarn-en-2017]delay regional elections that by law should have taken this year until at least mid-2017[/url], many Venezuelans are making sense of a grim new precedent: elections happen when the government – not the law – say they happen.
For National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup, yesterday’s decision is the clearest sign yet that Maduro is a dictator. Allup said the following through his Twitter account this morning:
Simply put, there is no rule of law. This is a dictatorship, [which is the] result of a continuous coup d’etat. A democratic government consults the people. A dictatorship runs away from elections. [They’ve] killed the recall referendum because [this] narco-corrupt government is a dictatorship.
Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, a politician from the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD), said that the CNE’s announcement was clear evidence that the Maduro regime is afraid of Venezuelan voters. While Aveledo did not use the word “dictatorship”, he did say the following:
This regime brings shame to Venezuela before the entire world. Political police and penal tribunals make the decisions, not the votes of Venezuelans.
With his comment, Aveledo referenced the fact that yesterday’s decisions to nullify the recall effort thus far in five states came out of penal tribunals. Legal experts have weighed in to say that penal tribunals simply do not have the ability to rule on electoral matters in the way that they did yesterday.
For the head of the MUD, Jesus Torrealba, yesterday’s decision is a sign that the Maduro regime is weak and afraid that it might lose power. Torrealba said:
This thing that is happening right now is happening not because they are strong. No. That’s not why. Those who are strong are not afraid to count off. This is why this is an example of the regime’s weakness.
Torrealba called yesterday’s decision a sign of “extraordinary weakness and fear” by the government, and qualified the CNE’s decision to postpone the recall based on rulings from penal tribunals “absolutely illegal”. Torrealba said:
Yesterday, using absolutely illegal pretexts, five tribunals that do not have the ability to rule on electoral matters declared that fraud was committed in the collection of signatures from 1% of registered voters… in a perfectly choreographed move, five tribunals made their announcement. Later, in the evening hours, the pro-Maduro rectors at the CNE held a conference and “obeyed” these tribunals that have to power to rule on electoral matters.
Carlos Vecchio, an exiled leader of the Voluntad Popular party, also took the decision yesterday as a sign of fear, saying:
Image what it must be like for Maduro that he’s afraid of a citizen with a pen.
Opposition Leaders Banned for Leaving Country
A court in the city of Valencia, Carabobo issued a travel ban forbidding eight opposition leaders from leaving the country. The ban affects the following individuals: Jesus Torrealba, Henrique Capriles, Ramon Jose Medina, Jose Cartaya, Oscar Barreto, Ricardo Sucre, Luis Aparicio, and Arnoldo Gabaldon.
The court did not provide an explanation for its ruling.
Maria Corina Machado: Gov’t Crossed “Red Line”; Civil Disobedience Necessary
Opposition leader Maria Corina Machado said in a radio interview this morning that by postponing the recall referendum, the Maduro regime has crossed a “red line” that has “killed the country”. For Machado, there is only one path forward:
For these reasons, we should calmly and somberly assume that the hour for [civil] disobedience has come.
Machado continued by saying:
Declaring ourselves in a state of civil disobedience is not only legal, it is moral. There have been examples of this in Venezuela already. Resistance is a conscientious, individual decision to refuse to accept more humiliation.
The Constitution of the Republic of Venezuela contains an article which establishes a duty to “disown” any dictatorial government. That is article 350, which reads:
Article 350: The people of Venezuela, true to their republican tradition and their struggle for independence, peace and freedom, shall disown any regime, legislation or authority that violates democratic values, principles and guarantees or encroaches upon human rights
Article 350 is often used as justification in calls for campaign of civil disobedience against the government.
Machado continued by saying:
The 2016 [recall] referendum was a red line, and the constitution gives us the right to civil disobedience (…) [the CNE] closed the institutional avenue, but that was not the only constitutional avenue.
Machado also said:
The question isn’t “what is the government going to do?”. The question is “what are we going to do”?
Almagro Calls for “Concrete Action” on Venezuela
Luis Almagro, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) , reacted to the news yesterday by calling the Venezuelan government “a dictatorship”, and said that Maduro rules “without legitimacy”.
Through his Twitter account, Almagro wrote:
Only dictatorships rob citizens of their rights, ignore the legislative [branch] and hold political prisoners.
This past year, Almagro attempted to shore up support at the OAS to invoke the Inter-american Democratic Charter against Venezuela. Invoking the Charter would potentially open the possibility of suspending Venezuela from the diplomatic body, and would he the clearest and loudest condemnation of the Venezuelan government on the international stage.
While that earlier initiative failed, Almagro appeared to suggest that invoking the Charter was still on the table:
We are convinced today more than ever that there has been a break in the democratic order in Venezuela. It’s time to take concrete actions.
MUD Calls for Protests on Wednesday
The MUD held a press conference this afternoon and called for protests tomorrow and Wednesday. In an impassioned speech, Capriles said that “the time has come to save the Constitution of Venezuela”, and called on all Venezuelans to “do what you know must be done”.
The announcement was made by Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles. He called for all Venezuelans to take to the streets of their cities and homes on Wednesday in an event he called “The Takeover of Venezuela”.
During the same press conference, National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup said that he would travel to the Organization of American States to push the organization to invoke the Inter-American Charter against Venezuela.
University Students Block Busy Highway in Caracas
Students from the Universidad Catolica Andres Bello blocked the Francisco Fajardo highway in Caracas today to protest the indefinite postponement of the recall referendum effort against Maduro.
Below, a and an image video of the students’ demonstration earlier today:
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