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Venezuela News

By Sol Maria Castro,

Trial for Táchira political prisoners began on Tuesday.

The public and oral trial against nine political, business and union leaders accused of civil rebellion for the events of April 12 in the Governor’s residence begins today in Táchira State. Coincidentally, President Hugo Chávez will be visiting Táchira to attend the naturalization ceremony of 20,000 foreigners who have received their Venezuelan ID papers. Wilfredo Tovar, José Neira Celis, Saúl Lozano, Omar Guillén, Danny Rámirez, Orlando Pantaleón, Jacobo Supelano, William Forero, and Elcy de Peña have been in jail since June 2003 awaiting trial.

President Chavez said that if he is revoked, he will run again.

President Chavez said that if his mandate is revoked on August 15, he will run again during the next elections, which would take place thirty (though probably sixty) days after the recall referendum. Last month, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court approved a sentence that allows Chavez to run in 2006. However, the sentence did not clarify whether he could run immediately after his mandate was revoked.

Influential opposition leaders Pompeyo Marquez says that the opposition will choose a candidate after recall referendum.

Sumate Vice President Warns of Government Strategies to Block referendum.

During a visit to the Council of the Americas in New York on Wednesday, NGO Sumate Vice President Maria Corina Machado warned a group of investors, business leaders, diplomats and academics that the government has implemented questionable strategies to win the recall referendum, including buying votes, using questionable and untested elections technology, and creating new voting centers in areas populated by its supporters.

Venezuela joins Mercosur as an “Associate” country.

Before entering the XXVI Mercosur Summit, President Chavez said that Venezuela had been accepted as an “Associate” country.

Updates on Presidential Recall Referendum 38 days away.

§ The PRR question: "Do you agree to nullify the popular mandate given through democratic and legitimate elections to the citizen Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías as president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela for the current presidential term?" The possible answers are, in the order established by the electoral authority, NO and YES.

§ The REP for new voters or residence changes will close July 10. Director Sobella Mejía announced on Monday that at the end of April, the REP included 12,518,884 registered voters, 12,429,885 Venezuelans and 88,959 foreigners residing in the country for over 10 years.

§ Despite the two-week delays in the preparation of the PRR, Directors Carrasquero, president of the CNE, and Rodríguez, president of the National Electoral Board, traveled to Washington, D.C, accepting an invitation by Venezuela Ambassador, Bernardo Alvarez to talk about the PRR at Georgetown University and the American Dialogue. The directorate scheduled for tuesday was suspended. Following their visit to Washington, the directors took a secret trip to New York, according to a reliable source.

§ Pending issues at the CNE: approval of the electoral bulletin, and instructions for the station witnesses and members, the creation of 1,000 new electoral polling stations, the signature of the contract with SBC.

§ Director Battaglini suggested the international observers should be limited to observe nine days before the PRR, and a visit program.

July 5 celebrations violated CNE norms.

Since the celebrations for the 193rd anniversary of the Independence, aired in mandatory radio and television simultaneous broadcasts, were filled with propaganda, the opposition considers it violated the National Electoral Council norms for the campaign. From the address given by Ambassador to the OAS, Jorge Valero to the military parade where a Saint Agnes Battle was performed by the Army (St. Agnes is the name the President has given to his campaign after that same battle), the different acts included a plea for the defense of the country’s sovereignty with a reminder that not only President Chávez is willing to give up his life in its defense, and the government missions with scores of mission recipients, clad in red, parading with NO placards. According to CNE norms, each side will have three minutes daily per media contracted and supervised by the CNE to ensure balance.

Government gives OK to conditioned dialogue after August 16.

Vice-President José Vicente Rangel said the government will accept a dialogue with the opposition under certain conditions and only after August 16 when the results of the presidential recall referendum are known. Among the conditions, Rangel explained the government will select the spokesmen for the opposition, banning anyone who signed Carmona’s decree in April 2002, and Enrique Mendoza. Rangel expressed concern for the opposition because they haven’t shown up; “they ran out of fuel,” said Rangel.

17 new TSJ justices will be appointed.

To the fifteen justices to be appointed from the 214 candidates nominated, the National Assembly Nomination Committee for the Supreme Court will add two new positions, those of the two justices of the Electoral Chamber who decided to request their retirement so they would not be prosecuted by the Moral Power or dismissed by the National Assembly for alleged unconstitutional acts when they ruled the signatures collected during the signature drive known as “assisted forms” were to be considered valid. The Nomination Committee conformed by five government legislators and six alleged members of the society will appoint 17 new justices before August 20: 12 new justices, 1 to substitute Justice Franklin Arriechi who was dismissed and 5 to substitute for retirees José Manuel Delgado, Rafael Pérez Perdomo, Alberto Martini, and Rafael Hernández.

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