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Latest News from Venezuela

By Sol Maria Castro,

Updates on Verification Process of Presidential Recall Referendum Petition after 38 days.

* CNE directors to discuss Monday complaints by Vice-president Zamora on Saturday. Zamora accused part of the computer system department of attempting to commit fraud in the physical verification process.

* CNE President Carrasquero, director Battaglini and officials of the National Electoral Board (JNE) underrated accusations.

* Director Mejía also announced she will request an increase on number of shifts so 60 referendum petitions can be responded by deadline.

* Director Rodríguez is expected to present evaluation of Smartmatic in Italy tomorrow.

* Enrique Naime, member of opposition umbrella group CD complained Ombudsman’s officials at the sites have gone beyond their competence during the verification process.

* Request by the Organization of American States to be present at two critical areas in the verification process will be decided Tuesday. The decision is tied 2-2, pro-government director Rodríguez will be deciding vote when he resumes activities Tuesday.

* National coordinator for political party Solidaridad, Ernesto Alvarenga has requested the dismissal of the head of the CNE Computer Department for a number of irregularities. He has also denounced the number of trips by directors, which delay the decision-making process. Director Rodríguez is flying in tonight from Italy and CNE President Carrasquero is traveling to Japan for eight days.

* Not one signature petitioning the presidential recall referendum has been transcribed so far.

New TSJ Law to be passed by simple majority.

The Supreme Court of Justice, TSJ, published the sentence announced last week, according to which the National Assembly is allowed to debate and pass the new Organic Law of the Supreme Court by a simple majority.

NB: This violates Article 203 of the National Constitution which reads: Organic Laws are those described in the present Constitution, those sanctioned to organize public powers, or to develop the constitutional rights, and those which operate as a legal framework to other laws. Every draft of an organic law, except for the one that this Constitution qualifies as such, will be previously admitted by the National Assembly by the votes of the two thirds of the members of the National Assembly present before beginning the discussion of the corresponding draft. This qualified vote will also be applied for the modification of the organic laws….

Aló Presidente # 179 amidst “snipers”, pasture grounds, and celebrations.

In his Sunday radio and television show #179, broadcast from a pro-government sector in the popular 23 de Enero neighborhood, President Hugo Chávez:

* remembered the historic events of January 23, 1958 which led to the overthrowing of Pérez Jiménez, and once again rewrote history to claim political parties had nothing to do with it, but only the people.

* saw the opening of an ambulatory clinic and a Bolivarian school in popular sectors in Caracas by the Ministers of Health and Social Development and Education, Culture and Sports.

* warned his followers to be ready in the face of the opposition’s announcements if CNE resolves there will be no referendum against him. He also emphasized the apparent synchrony and foreign advising the opposition is getting to again attack against Venezuelan peace and democracy.

* indicated there were “snipers” within the CNE that try to discredit the electoral arbiter, but added he trusts the “patriotic majority” inside. He reiterated he will comply with whatever decision CNE makes. He indicated the claims made by CNE Vice-president, Zamora, “seem to obey directives by the opposition political commands”.

* lashed out at opposition lawmakers for boycotting the passing of the new National Assembly’s Internal Rules, and argued, ”according to an analysis I’ve made, this is part of a plan to destabilize the country.”

* announced the new Turn Faces Mission, to end unemployment, will be launched on January 29, when those interested, can register to receive training in the 1,000 courses INCE will be providing, and appointed 23 de Enero as the first Endogenous Center. The new mission, geared towards the urban and suburban communities around Caracas, will grant Bs. 185,000 to participants right away. The courses range from auto-mechanics to urban hydroponics and organoponics crops, to cattle raising, with the idea of pasture grounds to raise horses in Miranda State, and cows, pigs, chickens and rabbits in cities.

* ratified the appointment of his brother, Adán Chávez as Venezuelan Ambassador to Cuba, and the appointment of former Ambassador Julio Montes as the Social Coordinator at the Presidency in Miraflores, while Rodrigo Chávez substitutes Adán Chávez as the new Minister of the Secretary.

* welcomed Ecuadorian Minister Patricio Acosta, an Army Colonel, who on behalf of Lucio Gutiérrez, said “this government model must be developed in the whole of Latin America.”

* finally invited all to celebrate next February 2 the “five year anniversary of the birth of the revolution and the assumption of the people to the government” outside the presidential palace of Miraflores, and February 4, the “twelfth anniversary of the civic-military movement that rebelled against the neoliberal programs of the time.”

OAS denies withdrawing from CNE.

The Organization of American States, OAS, issued a communiqué in which they denied CNE rumors they may withdraw from the verification and validation process of the signatures petitioning recall referenda against the President and pro-government and opposition National Assembly legislators, if they are not allowed direct access to the two critical areas they requested on Friday. They ratified that their request last Friday is framed against the agreement signed with CNE according to which it guaranteed the group “total exercise of their functions and access in the collection, and scrutiny and totalizing of the petitions.” To the OAS observers, the physical revision of petitions and the meetings of the Technical Committee are vital since it will be at those areas where the petition validity on which CNE will eventually base its final decision will take place.

PDVSA increases number of directors.

The re-structuring and re-alignment of PDVSA to reduce costs, includes a new board of directors with 11 members instead of the eight current directors: a president and three vice-presidents, in charge of strategic activities, while the other seven directors will be in charge of coordinating the different processes. According to Rodríguez Araque, president of PDVSA at the moment, they are seeking to lighten a complex, heavy, high cost structure. Responding to PDVSA’s former legal advisor’s denounces of irregularities in the oil company, Rodríguez Araque declined to answer arguing he was too busy in important projects to pay attention to public denounces.

PDVSA to open internal investigation.

PDVSA issued a press release informing it ordered an internal administrative investigation with respect to the serious denounces made by former legal advisor, Fabián Chacón. The new legal advisor, Rodolfo Porro stated that the transparent performance of the oil company forces it to open an investigation.

ELN leader denounces paramilitary complot against Chávez.

The leader of the military wing of the second Colombian guerrilla National Liberation Army, Antonio García, denounced a complot of paramilitary groups against President Hugo Chávez to facilitate an American military intervention, backed by Colombian military officers. “The paramilitary are going to carry out aggressive actions against Venezuela to destabilize the revolutionary process, the transforming project,” said García in an interview this Sunday.

US Energy Deputy Secretary recommends Venezuela solve its institutional problems first.

After his presentation on ‘Energy and Economy; questions to the future’, the US Deputy Secretary of Energy, Robert Card responded Venezuelan newspaper El Universal a question about Venezuela, saying that he agreed the country could play a significant role in the American natural gas market, “but our vision is that it needs to first tackle institutional matters before being able to attract foreign investors. “ Card had said that the US is entering a period of foreign dependency for gas as a result of the strongest increase in the prices of gasoline in history.

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