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Voluntad Popular (VP), one of the country’s largest opposition parties, is one of the six political organizations fighting to stay alive this weekend in a renovation process that has been universally decried has being intended to eliminate political competition in the country. The other five parties involved in this weekend’s renewal process are: Claridad Ciudadana; Alianza del Lápiz Pro Defensa de la Comunidad; Unidad Visión Venezuela; Unidad Nosotros Organizados Elegimos, and the Confederación Democrática (Conde).

Each of the parties must collect signatures from at least 0.5% of all registered voters in twelve of the country’s states. The Consejo Nacional Electoral  (CNE) has only allotted 390 signature-collecting machines for the process, meaning that most electoral districts will count on only one machine.

National Assembly VP deputy Luis Florido called on all VP supporters to lend their signatures for the party’s renovation, saying:

Signing for our party is an act of civil resistance. Signing for Voluntad Popular is a way of defying the dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro.

Florido also highlighted the absurdity of conditions imposed by the CNE by pointing out the fact that in all of Lara state – which has a surface area of 19,800 square kilometers and a population of nearly 2 million people – there are only 12 signature-collecting machines.

Earlier today, VP formally requested that the CNE extend signature-collection hours given the fact that many of the CNE’s centres had experienced delays throughout the day due faulty equipment, among other reasons. VP also said that the electrical blackouts that plague the country had also been knocking out CNE machines randomly throughout the day.

National Assembly VP deputy Juan Andres Meija summarized how the party’s efforts were faring today, saying:

In Plaza Chacao [in Caracas] there have been delays, but people are here showing lots of patience because they are convinced of the importance of today. In Carabobo, Vargas and Nueva Esparta states there are problems with the machines, the forms and the [process of fingerprint identification used to identify citizens]. In other cases, [electoral] officials have been asking people questions that they’re not obligated to respond, which has slowed down the process. There are electrical problems in Guarico [state] and there are no contingency plans in effect to activate the machines.

Meija also denounced the fact that pro-government groups have been attempting to sabotage the process, saying:

In the La Vega parish there was an attempt at sabotage by a pro-government group, which forced the machine that was at the [official centre] to be moved to La Villa so that they could keep an eye on it.

VP shared an image on its official Twitter account that it alleges shows pro-government supporters burning VP marketing materials. The image, which you can see below, shows men in red (the official colour of the PSUV) wielding sticks beside a burning pile of what appears to be VP flags (which are orange, after the party’s official colour):

#DENOUNCING This is how the dictatorship tries to break us but THEY WILL NOT BE ABLE TO DEFEAT VOLUNTAD POPULAR! #ISupportVolntad

Brazil: Venezuela is a Dictatorship

Brazilian Foreign Affairs Minister Aloysio Nunes was quoted in today’s edition of the Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper as saying that he believes that Venezuela is “a dictatorship”, signalling the strongest repudiation of the Maduro regime from the largest country in South America. Nunes also said that the leadership of every other Mercosur country, namely Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay) are “all in agreement” that Venezuela is no longer a democratic country.

Nunes, who became the Foreign Affairs Minister on March 2, said that he would work to mount diplomatic pressure on the Maduro regime from his office in Brasilia. On the possibility of suspending Venezuela from the Organization of American States (OAS), however, Nunes said:

There are doubts about the efficiency of such a measure. There are some who say that [the suspension] could even be used by the [Maduro] government in order to find legitimacy by arguing that they are under imperialist attack. Every dictatorship tends to use the specter of the foreign enemy in order to give itself legitimacy.

Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Minister Delcy Rodriguez reacted to Nunes’ comments through her Twitter account by calling Brazil a dictatorship:

It is wrong and despicable for an official from the Brazilian dictatorship to pass judgement on the vigorous Venezuelan democracy.

Brazil Press; Odebrecht Financed Chavez’s 2012 Election

Brazilian press reported today that the Odebrecht construction giant helped to finance Chavez’s 2012 presidential campaign in an illegal campaign that was confirmed earlier this week by Hilberto Silva, one of the firm’s formed executives. Silva also admitted that Odebrecht helped to finance Maduro’s 2013 presidential campaign in which he narrowly defeated Henrique Capriles Randonski.

Silva said that the money to finance Chavez’s campaign was placed into his pockets through a company owned by a publicist that Chavez used during his campaign by the name of Joao Santana. Santana also worked on electoral campaigns in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Angola, and Panama. Santana was sentenced to eight years in prison last month in Brazil for his role in the scandal.

Odebrecht is at the heart of “the biggest bribery scandal in history” which involved the company paying bribes to corrupt government officials in exchange for construction contracts. The company is alleged to have paid $98 million in bribes to Venezuelan officials between 2006 and 2015.


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