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Venezuela: Local News Review

By Sol Maria Castro,

Signature drive against opposition legislators starts today

21.11.03 - The signature collection drive to petition recall referenda against 38 opposition legislators began this morning at 6 am nationwide with the exception of Delta Amacuro, Yaracuy and Apure . Pro-government leaders said there were delays in 40% of the metropolitan area centers because either the CNE observers or the material had not arrived in time. By noon , 85% of the centers in Caracas , and most of the centers in the countryside had been installed. The drive will continue from 6 am to 6 pm until Monday, November 24. The pro-government groups expect to collect a total of 2,356,800 signatures in the centers and 1, 600,000 through the itinerant collectors that would allow them to obtain 97 votes in the National Assembly. (Of the 38, only 13 have pro-government substitutes: Leopoldo Puchi, Carlos Tablante, Alberto Jordán Hernández, Alejandro Armas, Luis Salas, Rafael Simón Jiménez, Pedro Castillo, José Luis Farías, Ernesto Alvarenga, Julio César Montoya, Luis Longart, Carlos Tamayo and Carlos Santafé).

Petition against Causa R lawmaker suspended

Elías Mata, Causa R lawmaker, claimed this Friday the pro-government groups in Zulia State had decided not to collect signatures to petition a recall referendum against his mandate because his substitute belongs to the opposition party Primero Justicia, PJ (Justice First). However, Mata argues the true reason is that they needed over 276,000 signatures they knew they could not get in Zulia State .

CNE approved validation criteria

With the two votes against the criteria related to fingerprints from the vice-president, Ezequiel Zamora, and director Sobella Mejía, the National Electoral Council approved the criteria for validation of data to petition recall referenda to be held during the month of November and early December in two events. The signatures will not be considered valid if there is not at least one name, one last name, date of birth, ID number and fingerprint and/or if any of these data is not clear or legible; if the fingerprint has not been “appropriately stamped according to technical evaluation”; when the fingerprint has been superimposed or it is impossible to determine its authenticity. The directorate also ruled that it could establish a criterion for fingerprint revision if need be. The forms will not be valid when the name and electoral circumscription of the official is not stated at the top; when the forms used in the itinerant process are not included in the act of proceedings; or when the form presents corrections or has been mutilated in any way.

AN session to discuss TSJ Law suspended

Around 6:30 a.m. today, the National Assembly session which started yesterday to approve the Organic Law on the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) in second discussion was adjourned. During the twenty-hour long session, pro-government lawmakers could approve only four articles of the bill because opposition legislators used every mechanism allowed by the legislature's internal rules for procedures and debates to prolong the debates. There was confusion whether the controversial article on justice designation had been passed or not.

G-5 broadcast message of peace to Venezuelans

On behalf of the opposition umbrella group Democratic Coordinator, four of the G-5, Julio César Borges, Juan Fernández, Enrique Mendoza, and Henry Ramos Allup, each took turns to read a message Thursday evening urging Venezuelans to exercise their constitutional right to question or accept the performance of public officials during the signature collection drives starting this weekend. The message read at one point, “We respect the rules of the game. We respect the electoral laws and rules. We respect the Venezuelans who do not share our positions. We respect those who, to express any idea, position or opinion, choose the tools offered by the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and express their feelings and points of view.”

Venezuelan government not worried about being excluded from FTAA

Venezuelan Minister of Trade and Commerce, Wilmar Castro, played down the statements by Robert Zoellick, according to which Venezuela is the only Andean country excluded from the negotiations agreements on free trade with the United States and announced in Miami during the FTAA meeting. Castro claimed that despite the announcement, all possibilities are open. Venezuela managed to insert a paragraph in the final declaration of the VII Free Trade Area of the Americas ministerial summit in which it is stated that any commitment within the agreement must respect the sovereignty of the States and their constitutional texts. The Declaration, signed by 34 countries of the continent, except Cuba , set September 2004 as the deadline to reach an agreement on market access. Likewise, the document states that the previous date of January 2005 to reach a final agreement is still in force. Venezuela said it reserves the right of joining the FTAA then. The Minister of Trade and Commerce had earlier submitted a report to Conindustria which shows Venezuela ’s exclusion from FTAA would imply losses amounting to 68% of its trade globally, some $ 14, 6 million.

Venezuelan economy falls 14.7% in nine months

The report by the Venezuelan Central Bank for the third quarter shows that the GNP saw a 7.1% drop during the third quarter of this year which places the drop of the Venezuelan economy at 14.7% during the same period. This reported GNP was 2.2% lower to the one reported in the previous quarter which evidences the continuation of the negative acceleration evolution of the contracted economy. The oil-related activity fell 9% while the most affected non-oil sectors were the industry (-9.9%), construction (-33.9%), and trade (-10%). International reserves amount to $19,151 million for the third quarter.

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