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Venezuela: Local News Review

By Sol Maria Castro,

Updates on Presidential Recall Referendum 32 days away.

§ The PRR question: "Do you agree to leave without effect 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 signing of the contract for automated services for the PRR with the SBC (Smartmatic, Bizta Group and CANTV) consortium was suspended once again this Tuesday. Sources hinted at lack of agreement between the CNE and the SBC legal representatives in terms of security codes, and transmission lines clauses.

§ In a television program in the State television station, Venezolana de Televisión, substitute director Tibisay Lucena informed July 18 there will be a nationwide voting drill open to all Venezuelans to test the transmission system capability of the voting machines, the totalizing process and the logistics of the event. The drill will take place in the 4,768 voting centers with one machine each and all 335 regional boards and the National Totalizing Center will be active for the drill.

§ The chairman of the Andean Electoral Council, Ecuadorian Nicanor Moscoso, offered a press conference with director Battaglini to inform that they will participate as observers in the PRR and accepted the Rules on Observation produced by the CNE although he did not know his content.

§ CNE discarded the creation of the 750 new voting centers because of time constraints.

§ The CNE Department of Computer Services director, Leonardo Hernández announced the department is working on four areas in full swing: “generation of the Electoral Registry, RE, solution one elector= one vote, voting automation and actual referendum on the day planned.” To generate the RE includes a purge of dead voters, incorporation of special movements, installation of the new technological platform, RE migration and development of the electoral products such as the notebook and the labels.

§ The CD formally asked the CNE to fine President Chávez for violating the Rules for Campaign Publicity and Propaganda in his official programs in radio and TV and the use of mandatory simultaneous broadcasts for political proselytism, as well request an investigation on the use of public funds to finance the campaign.

§ The president of VTV, the State television station, Vladimir Villegas, denied allegations published in the pro-government newspaper Ultimas Noticias that VTV and RCTV were the two stations violating the Campaign Rules by not broadcasting the institutionalized commercial spots for the YES and NO respectively. An informal study revealed that between Friday and Saturday, RCTV broadcast nine YES spots and no NO ads, while VTV aired five NO spots, and no Yes ads.

§ The Media Monitoring Center of the CNE gets activated Tuesday at President Chávez’s Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela headquarters with 20 unidentified journalism students and professors (no information on names or universities disclosed). The Center will keep track of advertising spots on radio, TV, and printed media using procedures devised by Norwegian and Brazilian NGOs, and determine the recall referendum actors meet with the Campaign Rules.

§ Pending issues at the CNE: the signature of the contract with SBC, invitations to international observers, approval of the electoral bulletin, and instructions for the station witnesses and members.

Preliminary audience against Baruta Mayor suspended again.

A preliminary court hearing on the case of Henrique Capriles Radonsky, Mayor of Baruta, where the judge was to decide whether to admit or dismiss the case, was suspended after the Second Crime Control Judge Regino Cova failed to attend. No date has been give for a new hearing, but Environment Prosecutor Danilo Anderson, special prosecutor in the case, said that the judge injured himself practicing a sport and they would have to wait for him to resume activities in 20 to 30 days. Capriles’ defense attorney, Juan Martín Echeverría, Jr., indicated that according to the Criminal Organic Code, COPE, there are only nine more days to hold the preliminary audience. Echeverría also claimed the judge was seen when he arrived to the underground garage of the Palace of Justice and a witness saw his assistant leave his gown and briefcase in the room, but then he left without appearing in court. The defense argues that if the judge was injured yesterday he should have communicated it to the judicial circuit immediately so a substitute judge could have taken his place. Earlier today, the media had published Norwegian Ambassador Dag Mork-Ulnes’s statements supporting Capriles’s recount of the events of April 12 at the Cuban Embassy. Mork-Ulnes said the Cuban Ambassador told him on Capriles’s cell phone everything was ok there and needed no other mediation, thanking the Ambassador for his concern. Capriles Radonsky has been in jail since May 11 in the State Security Police, DISIP, headquarters when Anderson argued the Mayor was a flee risk, and charged him with seven counts as perpetrator and accessory: violation of international laws, illegitimate duress, brutality, public intimidation, vandalism, private violence and breaking and entering.

Another Sumate director charged with conspiracy.

Luis Enrique Palacios, another director at Sumate, appeared into the Sixth National Prosecutor’s Office of Luisa Ortega Díaz, to be charged with receiving money from a foreign government. Palacios said he ignored why he had been subpoenaed; he was just told he was being accused and had a chance to look at his file. Palacios must appear again on July 17 to be formally charged.

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