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Venezuela: The weight of protests vs. a decision by the CNE

From El Universal

01.02.04 - Venezuelans lived a day of tense anticipation, with the attention divided between the National Electoral Council and demonstrations blocking a number of streets both in Caracas and other major cities...

* Sobella Mejías, a director of the National Electoral Council (CNE), expressed her disagreement on the decision made by three of the five CNE directors setting the rules for the verifying objected forms containing the signatures of people backing a presidential recall vote.

* The president of the CNE, Francisco Carrasquero, said that the mission of observers of the Carter Center had decided to leave Venezuela as a result of the statements issued Monday morning by Mejías.

* Jennifer McCoy, representative of the Carter Center, clarified that the center would remain in the country. McCoy explained that she and Francisco Diez (another representative of the organization) would leave the country for personal reasons, but underscored that other representatives of the Carter Center would come to the country to continue their work.

* Carrasquero immediately replied: " Francisco Diez told me that he would interrupt the mission and that the doors would remain open for us to call them if it was necessary. I did not tell lies."

* Streets, avenues and highways were blocked once again with barricades made of burning tires, piles of garbage and transit signals by opposition demonstrators are demanding a recall vote against President Hugo Chávez.

* There were severe clashes in Altamira, east Caracas, during the whole day. Protests in the sector on Sunday left eight wounded by gunfire and more than 100 people overcome by tear gas.

* A group of 11 people were moved to the courts after being arrested by the police of the Sucre Municipality on Sunday night, when they were demonstrating at the Rómulo Gallegos avenue, eastern Caracas. Besides, two Baruta policemen arrested since last Friday were ordered to be moved to El Rodeo prison.

* A local court issued arrest warrants against two other people for their alleged involvement in demonstrations in El Paraíso, south Caracas, on February 28, under the charges of blocking streets, offering resistance, and instigation to commit crimes.

* The General Attorney's Office issued a press release expressing its "concern" about the attitude assumed by some local authorities vis-à-vis the protests started three days ago in Venezuela demanding a presidential recall referendum.

* Defense Minister Jorge García Carneiro urged the mayors of the five districts of Caracas to cooperate to reestablish the order in the city. Meanwhile, the General Attorney's Office issued a press release expressing its "concern" about the attitude assumed by some local authorities vis-à-vis the protests.

* Maracaibo, the second biggest Venezuelan city, was militarized after the security forces beefed up the number of troops deployed around the city to control several protests by the civil society.

* Jorge Botti, president of Venezuela's National Council of Commerce and Services (Consecomercio), ruled out another general stoppage.

* The U.S. Department of State updated its "public announcement" to alert the U.S. citizens in Venezuela about the political situation in the country.

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