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Venezuela: CNE agents will decide who may ratify signatures

By Eugenio Martinez, El Universal

The board of directors of the National Electoral Council (CNE) approved Wednesday a set of instructions to verify the identity of the citizens that will ratify their signatures in the presidential and legislative recall petitions in the next two weekends.

The document, which was adopted with the dissenting votes of Directors Sobella Mejías and Ezequiel Zamora, gives a total authority to the "claim agent," an official designated by the CNE, to decide who may and who may not ratify or withdraw their signatures from the petitions.

Article 5 of the directives establishes that the cases where the identity of a citizen has not been clearly determined, "the claim agents shall declare the claim inadmissible."

The procedure to be followed by the claim agent in verifying the authenticity of the citizens' identification cards has been described in article 3. It reads that the CNE officials shall "examine the identity document to determine whether it contains the characteristics and features attesting the authenticity of the document."

The birth date and photograph of the citizens will be examined by the agent as part of the procedure.

Additionally, all the "claiming" signers must show the claim agent their little fingers to demonstrate they do not have residues of the indelible ink used after vote casting, which proves that they have not already exercised the repair right.

A significant aspect of this decision of the CNE is that, two weeks ago, Directors Zamora and Jorge Rodríguez had ruled out the approval of a set of rules for identity verification during the claims.

However, the pro-government group Comando Ayacucho made pressure on the legal advisor of the CNE to propose these norms to the board of directors. And finally, after five modifications, the electoral authority approved the rules.

At the starting point

The ratification-withdrawal process is set to start Friday with the signatures backing a recall against the mandate of 13 opposition and one government deputies.

In the last minute, the CNE decided to "eliminate" the names of Marelis Pérez of the ruling party MVR, Miguel Ángel Moyetones and Wilfredo Febres of the opposition party AD from the group of questioned deputies. Rodríguez explained that it would not be possible to gather sufficient signatures to activate recall votes against these legislators, even if 100 percent of the citizens with the right to request it ratify their signatures.

Until now, Deputy Salomón Centeno of AD is the only lawmaker with more than the necessary number of signatures to call a referendum against his mandate.

Translated by Edgardo Malaver

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