Yesterday afternoon, Miranda state governor and leading opposition figure Henrique Capriles announced that the march planned for January 23 will attempt to reach the headquarters of the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) in western Caracas. The CNE is the body responsible for organizing and holding elections in Venezuela, and the purpose of the march will be that it announce the date of regional elections that should have taken place last year but were postponed until this year.
Capriles made the announcement during an event commemorating the graduation of a new class of firefighters in Miranda state. Capriles said:
January 23 should be the start of a new path towards change. That’s what Venezuelans have asked us [the opposition] to do. [The march will be] the beginning of the rescuing of the Constitution via an electoral process.
Capriles also clarified that what the opposition would demand elections “for everyone”:
Everyone should be involved: governors, the executive, mayors. Even National Assembly deputies have said that they are willing to go to elections.
The CNE suffered widespread condemnation from the opposition and its supporters after it delayed regional elections for governors and mayors until some time this year. The move was widely understood to be an attempt by the ruling PSUV party – which is currently enjoying its worse approval ratings ever – to remain in power.
Constitutional term limits mandated that elections be held for the offices of governor, state assemblies and mayors last year. The fact that the CNE delayed the elections means that all regional elected officials are now ruling beyond their legal term limits.
CNE Rector: Elections Necessary “to Guarantee Peace”
The CNE is headed by five rectors, four of whom openly support the PSUV and the Maduro regime. The fifth – Luis Emilio Rondon – is an opposition supporter, and often speaks out against his organization’s decisions, including the one to delay last year’s scheduled elections, as well as the decision to cancel the recall referendum effort against Maduro.
Yesterday, Rondon called on the CNE to release a schedule for elections this year, since he considers such a move “necessary… to guarantee peace”.Rondon also stressed the urgency in announcing the schedule for the elections, saying:
The [pro-PSUV] core of the CNE must make known, approve, and publish the electoral schedule with a clearly-defined timeline.
NA Workers Protest Over Unpaid Wages
Workers at the National Assembly staged a protest today on the grounds of the legislature after they failed to receive their bi-weekly cheques. As public sector employees, the workers are paid through the central government.
National Assembly president Julio Borges placed the blame for the matter surely at Maduro’s feet, saying:
It is shameful that a government that calls itself pro-worker decided to not pay the workers of the National Assembly.
Jose Vicente Rivero, one of the striking workers, said that Minister of Labour Francisco Torrealba was involved in a regime plot to shutter the National Assembly, having recently fired more than 3,500 workers from the national legislature.
Rivero also explained that the workers have been the target of administrative wrongdoing since last July, saying:
We’ve been warning since last July that [the regime] intends to close the National Assembly, something that has been happening through the National Budget Office which has rejected its budgetary commitments with the National Assembly when it comes to paying into the workers’ social security, paying for uniforms, paying for childcare services for the worker’s children…
Cabello Takes Aim at Guevara For Marijuana Use
National Assembly deputy and PSUV vice-president Diosado Cabello hosted his weekly show called Con El Mazo Dando [“Hitting with the Club”] last night in the state-owned VTV network. During the show, Cabello lashed-out against National Assembly vice-president and Voluntad Popular (VP) figure Freddy Guevara, and took aim at his admission that he has smoked marijuana in the past.
During his show, Cabello said:
Freddy Guevara. This guy publicly admits to taking drugs. He’s the vice-president who smokes marijuana, as he admits, [which means that] he must be buying it from someone or he’s growing them at home. And if he doesn’t grow the plant in his house, who is he buying the drug from? Who is he covering up for right now? He’s covering up for someone because he’s buying marijuana from someone. He goes to a place up there in Alto Prado [an area of Caracas] to a guy who sells it and he pays him.
Guevara, who is 30 years old, admitted in July of last year that he had smoked marijuana in the past, but did not suggest that he still did.
Drug use in Venezuela enjoys a greater amount of stigma than in North America and western Europe, even when it comes to marijuana. This discrepancy might be due to the fact that Venezuela suffers from one of the highest violent crime rates in the country, giving the word “illegal drug” a particularly negative connotation.
PSUV Deputy: Venezuelans Must Learn to “Live Well with Less”
National Assembly PSUV deputy Eustoquio Contreras admitted in an interview that aired in the Globovision network today that the PSUV had made “some mistakes” in its administration of the country, but called on Venezuelans to make the best of the situation by learning to “live well with less”.
We admit that we’ve made some mistakes and that we took a long time to fix the oil prices, but it’s time for the country to live well with less.
Contreras also said that while the PSUV had indeed suffered a defeat in last year’s parliamentary elections, “chavismo is still strong”, and suggested that the party would ultimately recover and regain the National Assembly.
Contreras’ comments are at odds with recent polling, which suggests that the PSUV has an anemic 18% approval rating.
Ledezma Marks Grim Milestone
Former Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma marked a grim milestone today: his 700th under arrest. Ledezma was detained by security agents in his office on February 19, 2015 and was accused of plotting to overthrow the Maduro regime.
Ledezma spent the first two months of his detention in prison, but was granted house arrest on April 30, 2015 after undergoing a medical procedure due to failing health.
University Professors Head to 24 Hour Work Stoppage
The country’s university educators will stop working for 24 hours on Wednesday, January 25 as part of a protest against the imposition of a new healthcare plan by central government’s Office of University Planning.
The announcement came via the president of the Federacion de Asociaciones de Profesors Universitarios [Federation of University Professors’ Associations], Lourdes Ramirez.
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