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Venezuela's referendum: the stone in the anarchist shoe

By J. J. Herrera

(Valencia 6-12-03) - The issuance of this card to the wave of people that flooded the past weekend the petition stands to sign up for a presidential recall against Hugo Chavez, was something the supporters of this pro communist regime were not going to stand for. “Technical information” on how do I show up on the voters registration web page of the CNE information center, was something that the regime did not want the people to know of first hand.

When approaching a petition stand, that was set up on the sidewalk or on the side of the street, you as a petition signer had in your mind that doubt as to how do I appear, so that my signature would not be invalidated. The first day, which was the 28-12-03, when the petition process started, you simply approached a voter assistance stand that was near the signing tables, and inquire your voter registration status on the CNE web page. The voting assistance was predominantly handled by the people of SUMATE and PROVE, two political organizations completely different but united with one goal: to send Chavez out democratically and peacefully. The people of SUMATE were the first to organize the logistics of the gathering of signatures. “Queremos Elegir”, was another group that was also interested in the presidential recall process as well, “Primero Justicia” was another political group, that also pitched in to help with the process of orienting the signers as well as with the logistics involved. In summary, everybody was contributing to make the process a real success.

The cordiality offered by these volunteer workers in this historical process consisted in handing out the card you see above, and passing your “cedula” (Venezuelan ID card) to the voter volunteer who would inquire for you, free of charge, how your name appears in the CNE database. Do remember that the officials wanted the general public to ignore or not be aware of this detail, so that when the petition list was being checked for its authenticity any deviation on the name would invalidate the signature. So let us say that I would have written with my first name only, omitting my second name, which would invalidate the signature. Let us say I would only have put the initial of my mother’s maiden name after my last name that too would have invalidated my signature on the petition sheet.

On the second day of the process, it was forbidden to pass out this card. Bear in mind that it was Hugo Chavez favorable CNE's board who set up the rules for us to follow for the recall. But, he did not want us to be reminded of the details of the rules, while in the process of following the rules of signing the recall.

Another detail of the card is in the back of it. Once you signed the petition sheet, as formulated by the CNE, in an expensive currency paper, the table witness guiding you along the petition sheet, would indicate the serial number in which you signed and at what position on the sheet. So I signed the recall petition sheet Number A-01345272 on the third line. On the front face of the card I appear with all my names, my date of birth and my ID number. This detail on the back of the card which is laminated -I had mine plastic coated- prevents Chavez' regime from saying in the future that I did not sign, or that my signature was invalidated through some flimsy excuse of theirs. That legal note is something they can’t swallow.

The regime controls the CNE (Venezuelan acronym for: National Electoral Council). What is stopping them in the future to deny me my electoral rights? Thank God for the presence of the Carter Center and the OAS and the International Press as well as a multitude of Ambassadors from all over the world who were here to supervise and asses the transparency the process; not only the counting of the signatures which total more than 3.6 million but also the recall date, and finally the exit of Chavez as President of Venezuela. We are grateful for that. We are also grateful for the presence of Mr. De Shazo of the U. S. State Department assisting the U. S. Ambassador here in Venezuela Mr. Charles Shapiro. Thanks to him also for his brave attitude in defending our civil liberties and facing Chavez and telling him he is wrong in doing a series of abuses against us. One of those abuses was trying to silence our right to freedom of expression and the press.

The spirit of cordiality amidst the people during the petition process was one of mutual sympathizing with one another as well as an all out back up on any press correspondent, which would have been heckled by chavistas or the military acting as custodians of the petition process. The military presence obeyed to a “Plan Republica”, which basically has acted as custodians and police of all the election centers as well as this petition process. They used to be our last line of hope as an impartial guardian of our liberties. But now some of those military men who witnessed this petitioning process have realized which way the people tendency is and what they expect in the near future; a real democratic government.

 



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