Earlier today, Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) rector Tania D’Amelio said that the regional elections scheduled for last year but postponed until this year cannot take place until the process of re-certifying the country’s political parties ends. The re-certification process starts next weekend and will run until June 21, meaning that the CNE will not hold the highly-awaited elections until at least that date.
D’Amelio made the announcement by saying:
If [you are a party] and you don’t re-certify, you can’t participate in elections. At this time, the process of calling for [regional elections] has been interrupted until this process of re-certification ends, because we can’t violate the rights of those parties that want to run in [the regional elections.
D’Amelio stressed that the reason why the regional elections cannot take place sooner than June 21 is because the CNE want to give every party interested in running in those elections a chance to do so. She also said that by the end of June, the CNE would make available a list of which parties were re-certified and which were not.
According to constitutionally-set term limits, Venezuelans should have gone to the polls by the end of 2016 to elect their governors, mayors and state assembly representatives. However, the CNE postponed those elections in October of last year without any explanation, but assured that Venezuelans would take to the polls “by the end of the first half of 2017”. Today’s announcement confirms that this promise will not be kept.
At the time that the regional elections were postponed, opposition figures decried the move as nothing more than a desperate attempt for a wildly unpopular PSUV to maintain regional power.
D’Amelio Clarifies that MUD Will Not Need Re-Certification
During the same interview in which she made the comments above, D’Amelio confirmed that the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD), the largest opposition party bloc, and the PSUV would not have to take part in this re-certification process given the quantity of votes both blocs earned in the 2015 parliamentary elections.
With her comments, D’Amelio confirmed that the re-certification process will only apply to smaller political parties that are not affiliated officially with the two opposing blocs.
Rector Rondon: CNE Should Still Announce Election Date
The CNE is headed by five individuals: a president and four rectors. Out of the five, four are widely understood to be fully supportive of the Maduro regime and the PSUV. Only one, Luis Emilio Rondon, is supportive of the opposition cause, and he often publicly speaks out against the decisions made by the organization that he represents.
Speaking on D’Amelia’s comments today to reporters, Rondon pointed out that the fact that the regional elections cannot take place before June 21 does not mean that the CNE cannot still schedule the elections for a later date and make that announcement right away.
Rondon pointed out that the CNE “owes” Venezuelans elections, and stressed – as he has in previous occasions – that the organization cannot simply continue to delay announcing the date of these elections given the damage that the CNE’s stance is doing to democracy in Venezuela.
While Rondon conceded that the CNE does have the responsibility of certifying political parties in the country, he did criticize his organization for giving such a small time frame for the process this time around: merely 20 days spread over ten weeks. Rondon said:
[The CNE has previously granted] periods of nine months, 90 days, 120 days to meet the requirements of the re-certification process.
OAS, Almagro Set Sights on Venezuela Once More
Luis Almagro, the secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), announced today that the body would issue an updated report in the coming days on the deteriorating socio-political situation in the country, citing “serious setbacks” when it comes to human rights and democracy in Venezuela.
Speaking specifically on the Maduro regime’s tactic of harassing, arresting and jailing opposition politicians, Almagro said:
[The government] maintains the logic that they can detain anyone under any condition at any moment.
On the precarious state of elections in Venezuela, Almagro said:
Every electoral schedule has been completely devastated by the permanent violation of civil and electoral rights.
Almagro has been one of the most outspoken figures against the Maduro regime. Last June, Almagro penned a scathing letter in which he called on Maduro to allow the recall referendum against him to take place, and said that Venezuela was “reaching a breaking point” under the PSUV.
Lopes: Jail Has Made Me Better Leader
Spain’s La Razon published an interview today with jailed Voluntad Popular (VP) leader Leopoldo Lopez in which he reflected on the last three years of his incarceration for leading a wave of protests against he Maduro regime in 2014. The full interview can be found here, in Spanish.
In the interview, Lopez said that he feels that his experience in prison has made him a better leader, and that he is fully convinced that the Maduro regime could be defeated by a mobilized and determined populace.
Below, my translation of parts of the interview:
La Razon: Venezuela’s deterioration has been speeding up in the last few years. What do you think about the humanitarian crisis and the scarcity of basic necessities that affect all Venezuelans?
Leopoldo Lopez: People are suffering in lines. They’re suffering from scarcity. Our youth don’t have jobs. They don’t have a future thanks to a misguided model, a model that was imported from other countries that does not resonate with the brave people of Venezuela. We’re in a struggle not only to change the most inefficient and corrupt government in our history, but also a government that devolved into an anti-democratic, dictatorial regime. This is a struggle that has become one to regain or liberties and our democracy, and it is one that will continue until we achieve these goals. It cannot be any other way. We either submit or we fight for our liberty. We are going to resist. We are going to continue to fight, and we will be victorious. I do not doubt this. That is the history of peoples who have faced oppression. I insist that this is not a struggle that is taking place within a democratic framework; it is a struggle against a dictatorship and, for that reason, it is a struggle of democratic resistance. Knowing all this, I have prepared my body, soul and mind to be ready to face this struggle for as long as it is necessary.
La Razon: Do you regret having handed yourself over to the police and gone to a trial without any kind of guarantees? Have you been tempted by exile?
Leopoldo Lopez: I am imprisoned because of a decision taken by the dictatorship. It was a decision made by Nicolas Maduro and his accomplices, who publicly threatened me with prison no less than 20 times since 2013. When I was made aware of the arrest warrant against me, I had three choices: flee the country, which I never considered; go into hiding, which would have limited my ability to express myself and would have made me a target for assassination by the regime or its armed supporters; or hand myself over before unjust justice. I went with the third option. We must react before rights violations. Now, you’re asking me if I regret having handed myself over and gone to a trial without any kind of guarantee: no. I have found inspiration in the actions of leaders like Martin Luther King and Gandhi, who faced unjust justice in their own countries in defiance of the system in order to reveal themselves even more before the eyes of their compatriots and those of the world. Handing myself over to unjust justice represented an opportunity to face off against the lies, the abuse of power and the necessity to change the roots of this system.
La Razon: Is the government stronger now after the dialogue?
Leopoldo Lopez: I am convinced that due to the accumulation of errors and successes that the democratic [bloc] is becoming stronger each day, and more and more Venezuelans who want change will join us.
La Razon: Can the opposition defeat chavismo while it continues to control all of the branches of government?
Leopoldo Lopez: Of course it can. But there must be a strategy, courage and determination to have a strategy and execute it. There is no power that can contain a people’s desire for change for a long time. There are millions of us in Venezuela who want change. We can do this, but we need everyone to have conviction in their hearts, their souls and their actions. The dictatorship of a few cannot go up against the will of millions of Venezuelans. They will only achieve victory if we do not react, if we allow ourselves to be demoralized and demobilized. Only an organized and mobilized people can mount a challenge to this type of regime.
La Razon: Has Venezuela stopped being a democracy? [At what moment did it stop being one?]
Lopez: Three years ago, on January 23 2014, we clearly stated that Venezuela was a dictatorship and that, for that reason, we had to face it directly. Less than a month later, I was jailed and later judged for words that were a “crime” to say: “We have to go out and conquer democracy”. It’s incredible but true. That’s one of the allegations that the prosecution made and that the judge used to sentence me for allegedly inciting violence.
There are three main differences between dictatorship and democracy: the origin of the legitimacy of power, the work that is done once in power, and the end of power itself. The origin of Maduro’s arrival at power is questionable given the opacity of the 2013 elections, and I maintain that Nicolas Maduro did not win that election. During the previous Hugo Chavez era, the propaganda ate away at the electoral discourse. Venezuela was the most democratic country for having gone to elections eighteen times. That was the official truth, but the fact is that when the situation became adverse [for the government], as is happening now, they chose to suspend elections. They stopped Venezuelans from going toward a recall referendum because [the government] saw that it would lose.
Lopez turned himself in to authorities on February 18 2014 after he was accused of inciting a wave of violent protests that spread through the country that month. He is serving a fifteen year prison sentence after a trial that was universally decried as a farce by international human rights organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
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