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Venezuela: Breaking News

This page will be updated in real time through the signature collection drive for the recall referendum of Hugo Chavez

Operation Drugstore By Miguel Octavio

One of the peculiarities of the complicated rules for the petition drive, purposely designed to make the process difficult, is that each electoral center is assigned a fixed number of forms for the petition drive, based on the number of voters that cast their ballots at the last election. If the number is exceeded, then that center simply ceases to function. Well, many centers have already run out of forms today with two days left in the process, leading the opposition to create “Operation Drugstore” which mimics the way drugstores in Venezuela on the weekends and nights announce which nearby ones are open.

I find it absurd to establish a limit like this, but think about it, in the 2000 election people voted both for and against Chavez, but these centers are running out of forms which implies the total number of people that have signed the petition has exceeded the total number of people that voted in that election for or against, but this time around they are all anti-Chavez, asking for his recall. Incredibe!

Sat 29.11.03 - Venezuelans opposing Chávez lined up outside signature collection centers as early as 6:00 a.m. on Friday in order to sign recall petitions against the Venezuelan President and 36 pro-government lawmakers. The process was delayed because the military officers in charge of protecting the signature collection centers -under the so-called Plan República- and the balloting material did not arrive on time.

Sat 29.11.03 - Signature collection centers installed on Friday in Vargas State capital city of La Guaira have recorded a massive attendance of voters. Nevertheless, a small group of followers of Chávez has verbally attacked the opposition.

Sat 29.11.03 - Miguel Henrique Otero, editor of newspaper El Nacional, and Juan Fernández, leader of civil association Gente del Petróleo, were attacked by pro-government demonstrators when they attended to a signing center located in Carapita, a Caracas slum

Sat 29.11.03 - Venezuelan Vice President José Vicente Rangel ensured yesterday that the “opposition is playing at being at a virtual reality”, suggesting there is a scarce participation in the signature collection drive to request a recall vote against President Hugo Chávez. “Opposition plays on a virtual level and we on a real one. They pretend to deceive a lot of people using the mass media, but this move always fails,” said Rangel.

Sat 29.11.03 - Fernando Jaramillo, head electoral observer of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Venezuela, said the collection of signatures to demand a recall petition against President Hugo Chávez was being made with normalcy and with the National Armed Force protecting the security of voters.


4:15 p.m. (UTC/GMT -4 hours) - People continue flocking Santa Gema school in Santa Eduvigis Caracas. The organizers have rented buses that take people to a signature centre in the vicinity. Routes have been improvised by the buses in order to pick up those who have not means of transportation.

3: 40 p.m. (UTC/GMT -4 hours) - Delsa Solórzano, representative of the Democratic Coordinator declared that various collecting points have ran out of ballots already, namely those located in Avenida Victoria, Santa Fe, Catia and Antímano (Caracas). Problems have been reported to request more forms.

3:35 p.m. (UTC/GMT -4 hours) - At 4PM the Democratic Coordinator (CD) will hand a document to OAS Secretary General Cesar Gaviria in regards to the situation in Zulia state, where the signature drive is practically paralyzed. Opposition leaders accused specifically Infantry Commander Alberto José Gutiérrez, whose conduct is against electoral laws. The aim of the letter is to bring the attention of Mr Gaviria upon the issue.

3:30 p.m. (UTC/GMT -4 hours) - Opposition representatives Asdrúbal Aguiar, Timoteo Zambrano and Delsa Solórzano offered the third report of the day. They jointly stated that out of the 2.482 signature collecting centres 1.896 are being monitored. Military personnel taking part in "Plan Republica" are misinterpreting electoral rules and have made reporting extremely difficult. Sumate Organization was commended for its effectiveness in the report.

3:15 p.m. (UTC/GMT -4 hours) - In an area known as "Los Galpones de Parmalat" located in San Antonio de los Altos near Caracas, approximately 600 people could not sign due to lack of ballots. However they were taken to other collection places in nearby.

The Military Intelligence Department threatening voters

28.11.03 - About 6 members of the Military Intelligence Department (DIM) turned up in Los Chorros east Caracas and started filming people whilst they queue to sign. They requested to the volunteers to stop the blocking of transit in the area.

Identifying badges were demanded to be removed from the volunteers, which caused a swift reaction by those present. Ordinary citizens acted as a shield between the DIM officers and the volunteers until the former left.

West Caracas' centres still closed

28.11.03 - Collection centres from El Paraiso towards the west of the city remain closed due to absence of CNE officials. Once opened some of them will observe the 12 hour period established for the process and some others will close at 7PM for security reasons. Such is the case of La Quebradita and San Martin.

First signs of violence

28.11.03 - Sympathizers of Hugo Chavez damaged microwave transmitting equipment in Carapita west Caracas. The reason was the arrival of opposition leader Juan Fernandez. Upon arrival chairs, bottles and stones were thrown at the collection centre impeding Mr Fernandez from signing. Since the broadcasting equipment has been damaged reports can be sent only by telephone.

The centre located in Vista Alegre (west Caracas) has not been opened owing to the absence of CNE accredited staff. Vcrisis sources report unaccredited people acting as CNE officials pretending to take control of certain collection centres.

William Lara and the Violations to the Constitution

28.11.03 - I just heard some declarations by MP William Lara. From the headquarters of the CNE Mr Lara denounced TV network Globovision of broadcasting opinions of the citizenry where unbecoming language is used to refer to President Hugo Chavez. Mr Lara referred to the act as a gross violation to the Constitution.

Venezuelans in Madrid are signing petitions already

28.11.03 - At about 11.30 AM, Alejandro Kowalski reports from Madrid that aproximately 200 people have signed for the recall referendum. It has to be borne in mind that, due to an unconstitutional resolution of the Venezuelan electoral authority (CNE), the expat Venezuelan community cannot take part in the collection drive.

Notwithstanding the collection of signatures will take place in more than 120 cities worldwide and subsequently legal proceedings will be issued against the directors of the electoral body for violating the constitution.

The headquarters of courier group Zoom were raided yesterday afternoon by the state police DISIP

28.11.03 - The move came about allegedly due to the relationship between said group and the Democratic Coordinator (CD). Zoom has been advising the CD on strategy and logistic to be implemented by the CD for the delivery and handling of the electoral material once collected.

Government Electoral Observers do not show

28.11.03 - Signatures collection centres in Caracas, namely; Romulo Gallegos, Las Mercedes, Cafetal, Prados del Este and La Candelaria have not yet received the forms to be signed, which is the responsibility of the National Electoral Council (CNE). Two hours have elapsed since the start of the petition drive yet only 45 % of the centres have received the electoral forms.

Also witnesses from the government ruling party have not showed up in many centres, making impossible the commencement of the collection drive.

People , in great numbers, have been queuing since the early hours of the morning and the general atmosphere is one of sheer joy. Interviewees from "23 de Enero" -purportedly a stronghold of Hugo Chavez in Caracas- have expressed their desire of recalling the mandate of Venezuela's President, "we need to sign, we need a new democracy, our children deserve best" stressed some assistants. In UD7 Caricuao (west Caracas) people started to arrive at the centre at 5AM.

 



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