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Latest News from Venezuela

By Sol Maria Castro,

Updates on Verification Process of Presidential Recall Referendum Petition after 49 days.

- A week away from deadline, no definitive date to announce results yet. According to director Battaglini, it will be sometime after Feb. 20 and before the month is over; director Rodríguez says it could be a little earlier; and the Carter Center says not before March 1. 60 petitions have to be responded.

- Director Rodríguez announced CNE will start announcing partial results of the verification process of 37 petitions to recall opposition legislators introduced by pro-government groups next week.

- Director Rodríguez also claimed process of cross-referencing information on the petition form with Electoral Registry will take 48 hours.

- CNE started providing the database requested by MAS and opposition legislators.

- The Xeroxing process of acts of proceedings and petitions requested by the president continues as 50,000 forms have already been taken away by MVR legislator Luis Tascón. He claims those examined present irregularities, especially “similar fingerprints.” The process ends on Tuesday. Once they have them all, they intend to install “thousands of points of reception in which a person can go and verify his signature, to be able to say he did not sign.”

- FEDECAMARAS met with CNE directors, and were re-assured they are following rules and norms, and results will be announced before the end of the month.

- In the disinformation war, Nueva Esparta Governor stated 106,000 opposition forms are under observation, while 35,000 have already been annulled.

- There will be a demonstration of the voting machines at the Hilton Hotel by the three companies running: Sbs, Indra Sistemas and T-kosa today and tomorrow.

Ron launches political party and threatens there will be combat.

Pro-government street leader Lina Ron launched her political party, Venezuelan Popular Unity, in a public square downtown this Friday, and announced their total support to President Hugo Chávez’s candidates for the regional elections to be held on August 1. She also announced her group will celebrate Youth Week next week with a rally across the National Electoral Council, CNE, headquarters on February 13. “I foresee there will be combat here,” said Ron, who added “If someone tells me there will be a recall referendum, we cannot accept that, whatever the response, there will be combat. Violence is our right.” (NB: Youth Day is February 12, but the opposition announced over a week ago they will rally to the CNE headquarters on Feb. 13 when the deadline to announce results of the presidential recall referendum petition is over).

Another denounce against President Chávez introduced in Attorney General’s Office.

The political party Alianza Bravo Pueblo (ABP) introduced a new denounce in the Attorney General’s Office against President Hugo Chávez for peculation during the February 4 celebration. Humberto Blanco, ABP national coordinator said the act which took place in the horseracing oval track in La Rinconada was a crime against our public patrimony. After the rally, a group of trainers, jockeys, vets and owners verified the racecourse was littered with cans, stones, bottles, bottle caps, and even pipes, and the soil showed differences of elevation and compactness, and ditches, forcing animals and jockeys to stay away Thursday and Friday. The Thursday program was cancelled, and the weekend races were still on hold. The February 4 rally was the third held in La Rinconada in the last few months, but the first in which the oval track is used.

TSJ orders transfer of court for Gen. Alfonzo Martínez.

The Penal Court at the Supreme Court, TSJ, approved the draft presented by magistrate Alejandro Angulo Fontiveros, according to which “an inconvenient climate was produced”, with a “violation to the principle of trial publicity and the right to due process”, sending the case of dissident National Guard General Carlos Alfonzo Martínez to a new courtroom. On January 27, the 17th Trial Judge, Iván Bastardo, tried to judge Gen. Alfonzo Martínez in the military prison where he is jailed when the general refused to appear in court.

Cuban defector arrested by government authorities.

In a rather confusing event, Venezuelan National Guard officials arrested Ulises Bernal Pérez, a Cuban doctor who had earlier defected from the Into the Slums Plan, and allegedly kidnapped two television journalists on Wednesday when he was trying to cross the Colombian border to request asylum.

President Chávez opens Pan Amazon Congress and once again rewrites Venezuelan history.

Accompanied by the Brazilian Belem do Pará Mayor, Edmilson Rodríguez, Ché Guevara’s daughter, several ministers and Bernardo Alvarez, Venezuelan Ambassador to Washington, President Hugo Chávez, opened the second Social Pan Amazon Forum in Bolivar State. President Chávez reminded his audience that “Our course is not the North, but the South”, and emphasized it is the “time of South America, of the Latin-American peoples, the resurrection of the people of Simón Bolívar, of Antonio José de Sucre, Independence hero and martyr, Manuel Carlos Piar. We are a mixture of Black, Indians and Spaniards, said Bolívar, but the fundamental roots are those of aborigines and the African slaves.”

Banking superintendent resigns.

Banking superintendent, Irving Ochoa, resigned to his position and would be replaced with recently appointed Ambassador to Mexico, and former SENIAT superintendent, Trino Alcides Díaz, according to government sources. The resignation comes amidst rumors Minister of Finance Tobías Nóbrega, resigned in October and is only waiting for his replacement.

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