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Venezuela's Opposition Announces Governability Plan

By Sol Maria Castro,

Representatives of the Democratic Coordinator’s Political Committee announced that members of the opposition umbrella group had finally agreed to a governability plan to follow the August referendum, if Chavez loses. The accord includes a plan to hold primaries to select one candidate. If that candidate wins the post-referendum elections, he would govern until January 2007, and would not run again for office. The document will be signed on July 25. Other elements are an agreement to modify the constitution to limit presidential powers, while preserving social rights. Their plan also includes to return to a bi-cameral legislature, and second round elections if a candidate fails to garner 50% of the votes in the first round. It also aims to make the National Armed Forces more “institutional”.

· Updates on Presidential Recall Referendum 25 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.

§ REP: Today, pro-opposition electoral board director Sobella Mejías announced that 13.893.322 Venezuelans will be eligible to vote in the referendum. The Electoral Registry is indispensable for producing the voting notebooks, and programming 19.662 voting machines.

§ CNE president, Francisco Carrasquero, dismissed rumors spread by the pro-government UBEs that the government will know who voted against it, by reiterating the automated system guarantees the secrecy of the vote.

§ Pending issues at the CNE: Purge of the REP, approval of the electoral bulletin, and instructions for the station witnesses and members, contingency plan, production of ballots for manual voting and voting notebooks.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced that he will send a special envoy to observe the recall referendum.

Ecuadorean Diego Cordovez, Annan’s special advisors for Latin American affairs, will arrive on Tuesday to observe preparations for the referendum.

Recall drill Sunday ended with mixed reviews.

The recall drill carried out in 4,768 voting centers nationwide Sunday to test the transmission system capability of the voting machines, the totalizing process and the logistics of the event was fairly successful at a technological level, but a disaster in logistics, at least in Caracas, and rather poor in terms of turn-out. There were reports of centers which opened five hours after the scheduled time as the National Electoral Board forgot to inform school principals of the drill and there was no one to open them (summer vacation), centers where no member of the voting station showed up because they had not been informed, and only the machine operator was present. In the countryside, problems had to do more with failures with electricity which made it difficult to transmit the data or to receive it without problems. The CNE directors and Smartmatic executives expressed their satisfaction about the results. Yet, the formal evaluation will be disclosed by the CNE directorate after their meeting this Monday without disclosing the number of votes each proposition got since members of the government campaign made a call to vote for a certain option. (NB: The question in the drill was: Which, do you think, is a better team? Caracas Magallanes. The Maisanta Campaign Command asked their followers to cast their votes for President Chávez’s favorite baseball team, Magallanes)

Exit Poll Sunday indicates President recalled with 65%.

An exit poll conducted this Sunday by Cifras Encuestadoras, CECA, about the vote intention on August 15 with 2,250 electors in the cities of Maracaibo, Barquisimeto, Barcelona and Caracas, yielded a 65% of YES votes (1,463) and a 33% of NO votes (742); 2% of the sample responded their vote was secret (45). The only region where the NO votes won was in the eastern city of Barcelona, Anzoátegui State, where the President’s support reached a 48% against a 33% that adverse him, and 18.6% who responded their vote was secret.

General Carlos Alfonzo Martínez sentenced to house arrest

Popular within the opposition, who came to regard him as a political prisoner, National Guard general Carlos Alfonzo Martínez was sentenced to house arrest. He was been charged with abandoning his command functions, incitement to rebellion, and violations of security zones.

Summary of Aló Presidente # 198.

In his weekly Sunday radio and television show, broadcast this time from San Cristobal, Táchira State, President Hugo Chávez:

· congratulated the children of Venezuela and the world on their day. “This life we devote to them to give them a free nation, with equality, so that all can live with the best possible orientation.”

· announced he will not eliminate his weekly shows or the mandatory simultaneous broadcasts as some members of the opposition have requested since he has been using them for political proselytism. He acknowledged knowing he could not use the mandatory broadcasts or his shows for propaganda use, but excused himself saying he was only informing what the government is doing. As the cameramen showed placards with NO in the audience, President Chávez asked, “Where do I stand if there are NOs everywhere?”

· announced the reduction of one point of the Value Added Tax, IVA, and the Business Actives.

· made announcements on investments on the state for Bs. 200 billion for freeways, housing units and the Bolivarian University.

· read the Venezuelan poem, Florentino and the Devil (NB: the President has said the Devil represents the opposition, and he is Florentino who beat the devil) for over a half hour, and then aired a video on the success of the Mercal Mission nationwide. The President informed 18 new Mercal, popular markets, have been opened in 14 states.

· warned there will be raids if the scientific police or the military know of anyone hoarding products.

· referred to Richard Boucher’s statements last Friday exhorting Venezuelans to conduct an open, free, just and transparent recall referendum, and warning Washington will continue finding ways to urge Caracas to do just that. President Chávez responded, “we do not accept pressures from any devil. This is a free sovereign country, Mister Bush.”

· warned the umbrella opposition group, Democratic Coordinator, of behaving out of desperation.

· confirmed President Néstor Kirchner will be visiting Venezuela this coming week.

President of the Bank of the People was found dead.

The President of the Bank of the People Julio César Barillas was found dead in his office on Tuesday from a bullet wound. Workers said that he was alone at the time. The bank is a money-lending facility created by the government for the poor. Official cause of death has not been announced.

Acquittal of Puente Llaguno shooters ratified.

The Court of Appeals in Aragua State confirmed the acquittal of Richard Peñalver, Rafael Cabrices, Henry Atencio and Nicolás Rivera accused of homicide, public intimidation and use of illegal weapons when they were filmed shooting opposition protesters from an overpass near the presidential palace on April 11, 2002. The 4th Criminal Court had eliminated the homicide charges as the prosecutor, Danilo Anderson, failed to present evidence of ballistics. Anderson appealed arguing the acquittal was based on his prosecuting of 8 Metropolitan Police officers for the same cause.

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