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Venezuela: Recalling the tortous path to the recall referendum

By Miguel Octavio

Argelia Rios in El Universal echoes the Vice-President’s words a few days ago that “the opposition will kick the table before August 15th.” This is not the first time the Vice-President has made the prophecy that the opposition will step outside the democratic path, in fact, ever since the signing of the agreement to find a solution to the Venezuelan crisis, Rangel has repeatedly predicted it, to no avail. In fact, what I found most interesting about Rios’ article was the summary of obstacles that the opposition has had to overcome to get to the recall referendum, which I thought was worth reproducing here in condensed version and in my own words:

-The previous Electoral Board was precluded from considering any requests for referenda by the Supreme Court.

-The Chavez controlled National Assembly delayed naming the Electoral Board. In fact, it never did.

-The selection of an Electoral Board which supposedly had two members for each side and Carrasquero as the “equilibrium” card. What a joke!

-The decision by the CNE to take over the petition process for the recall referendum, converting it into an electoral process in itself.

-Regulating the petition process to make it complicated, arbitrary and difficult.

-Barring the right to sign the petition by Venezuelans abroad.

-Limiting the role of international observers.

-Forcing the use of currency paper to gather signatures for security purposes, despite which the Government claimed fraud.

-There were “errors” committed in training the witnesses for the petition drive.

-The number of days for the petition drive were arbitrarily limited to four.

-The interpretation of the regulations for the signatures which allowed with one stroke the invalidation of 350,000 signatures, suing a surreal catalogue of “causes”.

-The elimination of 800,000 signatures, which forced a new “ratification” process for those signatures that had the same calligraphy.

-The inequality in the application of the regulations between the process to gather signatures to recall Chavez and those to recall Deputies.

Then came the ratification in which we witnessed:

-Regulations were issued to guarantee that it would be impossible to have the opposition ratify the signatures.

-The database was manipulated.

The Electoral Registry was manipulated to guarantee that thousands of people would not be able to ratify their signatures.

-The new interpretation that people could withdraw their signatures because they changed their minds, but those that wanted their signatures added could not.

-The complex design of the forms and the process.

And now we face:

-A new automatic process using a new company, in a process that has a simple Yes and No vote which hardly justifies using machines.

-All contracts have been assigned in discretionary fashion by the CNE, which is controlled by the Government.

-Now, machines to capture fingerprints are purchased six weeks before the process with the sudden “rumor” that this will make the vote not secret.

-The pretension of converting international observers into deaf mutes.

-The existence of a parallel CNE where the three pro-Chavez Directors meet and show up to the meeting with the two other Directors with everything decide according to the wishes of the maximum leaders of the process.

-The sudden need to have new polling centers.

-The sudden rush to hand out national ID cards and have foreigners become citizens.

-The obstacles placed on Venezuelans abroad to register to vote.

-The sudden pensioning off or leaves granted top dozens of CNE workers with expertise.

-The inability to fulfill the schedule which threatens the date for the recall vote.

-The rejection of the live audit of the electronic and paper votes.

And I add:

-The sudden departure of two CNE Directors for two days to attend propaganda events organized by the Government in the US, in which the two CNE Directors talked about the balanced and fair job they have done. Why didn’t they invite the non-Chavista members of the CNE? Too afraid of the truth?.

After all this, what does Rangel have in mind to push the opposition into refusing to continue the process? You have to wonder and worry.

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