The Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) announced this afternoon that it was pushing back the date of the presidential election to May 20, and that Venezuelans would also vote for their state and municipal councils on the same date.
The announcement was made by CNE head Tibisay Lucena during a press conference, who said that the move was made in order to help guarantee a free and fair vote. Lucena said:
With this agreement, we are ensuring that our leaders are elected with the most ample constitutional and democratic guarantees.
On the addition of the municipal and state votes, Lucena said:
When it comes to elections, it’s been proposed that simultaneous to the election for President of the Republic, [we] also elect state legislative councils and municipal councils in the second week of May 2018.
In Venezuela, presidential elections are typically held in December of the election year. Maduro’s Constituent Assembly shocked the country on January 23 of this year when it demanded that the vote take place before April 30 of this year. The CNE obliged days later, when it announced that the vote would take place on April 22.
Elections for state and municipal councils ha always taken place on the same day as the gubernatorial vote. Last year was the first time that the CNE decided to not hold all three votes together, as it opted to only have the gubernatorial vote on October 15.
The moving of the presidential election date as well as its unprecedented combination with state and municipal council elections is the latest in a mounting pile of evidence showing that the Maduro regime is become more brazen in its open manipulation of electoral processes for its benefit.
Today’s move was the result of an agreement between four parties: Avazanda Progresista (AP), Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS), COPEI and the ruling PSUV.
On the agreement, Lucena said:
The electoral branch celebrates the reaching of this agreement, with which these organizations commit themselves before the country to an electoral process that will contribute to the peace of Venezuelans.
On February 21, the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD)–the largest and most important opposition bloc in the country–announced that it would not participate in the election, given its belief that it has already been rigged in favour of Maduro. The MUD cited the fact the the vote was taking place on April 22 as evidence that it could not possibly count on all of the audits and safeguards necessary to ensure a fee, fair and transparent vote.
The CNE’s decision today partially adheres to calls from PSUV vice president Diosdado Cabello and Maduro to hold a “mega-election” for National Assembly, president and state and municipal councils on the same day.
Regime Forces Break Into Lopez Home
Human rights activity Lilian Tintori announced through her Twitter account early this morning that agents from the Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional (SEBIN), the regime’s political police, had broken into her home and were occupying it. Tintori broke the news with the following tweet:
#URGENT SEBIN agents have entered our home and is still there. This is illegal, they do not want to leave and say that this is a “new order from above”.
Tintori is married to Venezuela’s most famous political dissident, Leopoldo Lopez. As the head of the Voluntad Popular (VP) opposition party, Lopez was a key figure in the 2014 anti-government protests. An early and outspoken critic of the Maduro regime, Lopez was arrested that year and sentenced to 13 years in prison in a 2015 trial that has been universally condemned by human rights organizations as a farce.
Leopoldo was transferred to house arrest last July under strict conditions.
Tintori said that an unspecified number of SEBIN agents entered her home “without a warrant and with weapons”, and that her three children were frightened.
While it is not clear at this time why the SEBIN agents entered the home, Tintori appeared to be under the impression that they were there to keep eyes on Lopez. In a tweet, Tintori explained why that measure is unnecessary:
My husband [Leopoldo Lopez] is under surveillance 24/7. He has an electronic ankle bracelet and there is NO justification for this action [the breaking into her home by the SEBIN agents] which is affecting three children.
The image below shows four masked and heavily-armed SEBIN agents standing outside of the home today:
In the image below, Tintori stands in the doorway of her home and exchanges words with the SEBIN officers standing outside:
Journalists Arrested Outside Lopez Home
While SEBIN agents broke into the Lopez home in Caracas, others stationed around the home arrested at least six journalists who were covering the event.
According to the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Prensa de Venezuela [Venezuelan National Press Workers’ Syndicate] (SNTP), two of the detained journalists were Vanessa Rivas and Johnathan Guaricuco from Caraota Digital. The SNTP says that the two were “arbitrarily detained” for approximately two hours.
The organization also said that SEBIN agents also arrested journalists named Luis Gonzalo Perez, Rafael Hernandez, Karola Gonzalez, and Alejandro Medina. The journalists work for Venemundo Web, NTN24, and Univision, respectively.
As of the writing of this update, the status of the journalists from Venemundo Web, NTN24, and Univision is unknown.
Maduro Increase Minimum Monthly Salary
In what has become a common occurrence in hyperinflation-ravaged Venezuela, Maduro announced an increase to the minimum monthly salary this afternoon.
Effective today, Venezuelan workers earning the minimum monthly salary will earn Bs. 392,646. When combined with their monthly food stipend, the average Venezuelan worker will now bring in Bs. 1,307,646 at the end of the month, which is approximately $6.13.
The increase represents a jump of 58% from the last time that the minimum monthly salary was altered, which was on December 31 of last year.
Police Kill Protester in Sucre State
Sucre state authorities killed a 33 year old man yesterday afternoon in the Bermudez municipality of the state during a protest. Argenis Serrano was part of a demonstration that was taking place in the area of Playa Grande to call attention to the state of the town’s sewage system.
Serrano’s death sparked outrage, as protesters blocked a road in the town and destroyed government property, including PSUV billboards and a bus:
At least eight other protesters were injured during the unrest.
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