Criticism of the Consejo Nacional Electoral‘s (CNE) political party re-certification process continued to pour in today from opposition circles, after political figures yesterday denounced it yesterday as a naked attempt to make the country’s opposition parties illegal.

The process is scheduled to start next February 18. It will take place over ten weekends, and will require political parties to collect signatures from thousands of supporters across the country over a period of two days per party in order to be illegible to run in future elections. The CNE has allocated only 390 fingerprint scanning machines throughout the entire country for the process.

Today, Vicente Bello – the chief of electoral matters at the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) – held a press conference in which he addressed the CNE’s announcement. During the conference, Bello called the process “improvised”, and pointed out several nonsensical aspects to it:

[The CNE] didn’t realize that they had included the weekends during carnaval and Holy Week [in the process]. It is impossible for a political party in Venezuela to mobilize voters to the CNE offices or to a local plaza, or anywhere, on Easter Sunday.

Venezuela is an overwhelmingly Catholic country, and Easter Sunday is arguably the most important holiday of the year. It is common for businesses to close during some or all of Holy Week and carnaval, and schools are closed during this time. Holding the re-certification process during Holy Week – and in particular on Easter Sunday – is akin to holding an election on Christmas Day in North America.

Bello continued by saying:

Our opinion is that this is so improvised, so ham-fisted, that [the CNE] doesn’t even have the list of where the registration centres are going to me.

Bello also pointed out that there are 365 electoral districts in Venezuela, and that the CNE has only allotted 390 machines for the entire process. This means that the vast majority of electoral districts – perhaps even highly populated ones – will only count on one machine for the re-certification process.

Maduro: Deputies on US Tour Committing “Treason”

Maduro said yesterday that an awareness-raising tour of the United States by opposition National Assembly deputies Freddy Guevara, Jose Gregorio Correa and Aramando Armas constitutes “treason against the homeland”, and that the three deputies were simply out on a mission to secure U.S. intervention in Venezuela.

Maduro made the comments during his daily radio show, La Hora de la Salsa [Salsa Hour]. Maduro said:

These deputies are committing serious acts of treason against the homeland by going to Washington [D.C.] to tell the new United States government that it has to intervene in Venezuela.

While the deputies’ trip to the United States has yet to be confirmed, El Nacional reports that the three are believe to have met with the U.S. sub-secretary of state Thomas Shannon as well as Luis Almagro, the secretary general of the Organization of American States.

NA To Investigate Passports-For-Sale Allegations

The National Assembly’s sub-committee on anti-terrorism will launch an investigation into allegations that the Venezuelan embassy in Iraq sold passports and visas to individuals as part of a corruption scheme. The allegations came from an investigation from CNN that was published earlier this week.

The president of the sub-committee, Jose Luis Pirela, spoke on the case, saying:

This case has become a global scandal and has brought shame to our country. We hope that in two weeks we will be able to take to the floor of the National assembly the results of the discussion that deputy Ismael Garcia brought forward, in which he asked for an investigation into allegations made by Misael Lopez Soto, a former embassy staff person at the Venezuelan embassy in Iraq, who  said that the embassy gave Venezuelan passports and documents to alleged drug traffickers and Middle Eastern terrorists.

Lopez told CNN that while he was employed at the Venezuelan embassy in Baghdad between 2013 and 2015, he became aware of a corruption scheme involving the ambassador himself that saw the sale of Venezuelan passports and visas to anyone who could afford them. The documents sold for around $10,000 to $15,000 dollars.

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