The Consejo Nacional Electoral, the regime body in charge of organizing and holding elections in Venezuela, confirmed today that it was changing the location of 119 voting centres across the country with four days to go before the highly-contested October 15 gubernatorial election. News of the impending announcement leaked earlier this week, and the move was immediately decried by opposition leaders and supporters as a desperate attempt by the Maduro regime to disrupt the election.
Confirmation of the move came via CNE rector Tania D’Amelio, who revealed the news through her personal Twitter account. According to D’Amelio, the voting centres that were moved were selected because they were the sites of “acts of violence, assault and sabotage” during the July 30 Constituent Assembly election. D’Amelio did not provide any evidence to back up her claim, and did not explain why the CNE waited until four days before the election to make the change.
When news of the voting centre change leaked yesterday, journalist Eugenio Martinez reported that the measure would affect at least 312,000 electors, and that the voting centres targeted for venue changed voted 80% in favour of opposition candidates during the 2015 parliamentary elections.
The fact that the voting centres have been moved so close to the election could result on Venezuelans who are not aware of the sudden change being denied the right to vote on Sunday, because they would be showing up to cast their ballots at centre that no longer exists. Individuals who have already made travel arrangements to vote, or whose new voting centres are too far away from their homes, may also be discouraged from voting by this measure.
The list of voting centre changes shows that, generally, the centres have been condensed. For example, in Aragua state, 17 distinct voting centres are now all housed in the same facility: the Technical Bolivarian Military Academy. The rest of the list shows similar voting centre condensation in varying degrees.
The full list of moved centres can be found here.
MUD Doubles Down on Fraud Claim
The Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) reacted to the CNE’s voting centre move announcement today by doubling down on claims made yesterday that the measure was a naked attempt to commit electoral fraud in favour of the Maduro regime.
The MUD’s electoral coordinator, Liliana Hernandez, pointed out that the affected voting centres happen to be ones where “the opposition has done well in previous electoral processes”.
For example, Hernandez pointed out that in Miranda state alone, the voting centre move affected a total of 130,000 registered voters. Out of that number, 74,308 are opposition voters, while only 8,398 are PSUV voters.
National Assembly deputy Stalin Gonzalez said that the measure is evidence that the Maduro regime is “desperate” to mitigate its losses in the October 15 election.
Pro-Regime Civilians, National Guard Attack Opposition Politicians in Apure
The head of the Accion Democratica (AD) party, Henry Ramos Allup, and gubernatorial hopeful Jose Gregorio Montilla were attacked this afternoon while campaigning in Apure state. Allup claims that the attack was carried out by a mixed group of National Guard soldiers and pro-regime armed civilian groups known locally as colectivos armados [literally, “armed groups”].
The attack took place when a group of individuals began to throw rocks at the vehicle in which Allup and Montilla were traveling in near the municipality of San Felipe de Apure. According to El Nacional, Montilla suffered a head injury during the attack, during which the attackers threw bags full of excrement at the opposition politicians and their vehicles.
The image below shows Montilla after the attack, his shirt soaked in blood. In the background, a pro-regime group of civilians burn tires in an attempt to stop the politicians from continuing on their way:
Child Shot at Tumultuous Border Crossing
A Venezuelan child was shot yesterday on the Simon Bolivar International Bridge just hours after Colombian authorities demanded to meet with the Venezuelan counterparts over the increasing violence in the area. According to El Nacional, the shootout that injured the child was the third such event in 36 hours.
As they did in a statement made earlier this state, authorities from the area of the city of Cucuta in Colombia–which borders San Antonio del Tachira in Venezuela–blamed the violence on pro-regime militias that are taking advantage of Venezuela’s social collapse to establish criminal operations in the area.
Carlos Guevara, a Colombian community leader from the area, spoke on the shootout that injured the Venezuelan child yesterday, saying:
This was a shootout that lasted between 15 and 20 minutes. We know [the groups responsible for the violence] as colectivos or pata e’cauchos [literally, “tire feet”]. That’s what we’ve heard.
Guevara also provided an account of why the area has seen so much violence over the last few days, saying:
Across the river [in Venezuela] there is a Venezuelan National Bolivarian Guard base. They [the criminal groups] routed them from the base. The Guard no longer has the base.
Javier Barrera, the chief of the Cucuta Metropolitan Police, explained the reason for the increased criminal activity on the Venezuelan side of the Colombian border near the city:
This is organized crime in every sense of the word. What’s going on here is a wholly economic issue: control over the trochas [the paths across the border]. [It’s about] acquiring resources for the contraband of gasoline, steel, metal junk, food, drugs, and weapons.
Exiled Mayor Calls for Return to Street Protests
David Smolansky, the exiled mayor of the El Hatillo municipality, released a video today in which he called on Venezuelans to take to the streets as they did earlier this year to protest against the Maduro regime. Smolansky qualified his call by arguing that this new street protest campaign should be launched from newly-won opposition governorships in the aftermath of Sunday’s gubernatorial vote. He explained:
To the governors I say the following: re-take the streets. Demand that the National Assembly be respected, that political prisoners be released and that exiles be allowed to return, that [the regime] open a humanitarian corridor and to disavow the National Constituent Assembly. This will be your main task starting on October 16.
Smolansky’s vision for a post-gubernatorial election in which the opposition has won more or all the state governorships also includes a strategy for continuing the struggle against the Maduro regime. Smolansky said:
The challenge is how to lead Venezuela starting on October 16. What hurts Maduro is not only doing a good job [at running a state], but also facing the crisis and denouncing the abuses to which we’ve become victims.
Smolansky was removed from his position as mayor of El Hatillo and sentenced to 15 months in prison by a Supreme Court order on August 9. The Court ruled that Smolansky had failed to stop anti-regime protests from taking place in El Hatillo. After evading capture for a month, Smolansky managed to escape Venezuela into Brazil in September.
In his video, Smolansky also said that he had been invited to speak at a special audience at the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, D.C. on October 17, in which he will speak on the Maduro regime’s systemic human rights violations. The special audience is taking place as part of an unprecedented effort at the OAS to determine whether or not Maduro regime officials have committed crimes against humanity.
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