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Venezuela Locals News Review: September 17, 2004

By Sol Castro,

o Civil association Ciudadanía Activa asked the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, TSJ, to suspend the October 31 regional elections claiming conditions for a transparent vote are not guaranteed.

o Justice and Internal Affairs Minister, Jesse Chacón announced the government will resume the second stage of Mission Identity starting October 1 and until December. The “mission” consists of providing instant IDs outside the ONIDEX offices.

o Rumor has it the elections for governors and mayors will be postponed once again for December. Yet, the government party will launch its campaign this Saturday, September 18 nationwide.

o Amidst the controversy of the 21-point amendment to the Constitution, the National Assembly resumed ordinary sessions today.

o SENIAT shut down 21 car dealers in a first part operation in Caracas and Barquisimeto during 48 and 72 hours, and fined the businesses with Bs. 617,500 for not “complying with their formal duties.”

· CD demands the impossible in two fronts.

Based on what the Organic Suffrage Law establishes, the political parties within the umbrella opposition group Democratic Coordinator, CD, have demanded seven conditions to be met for the regional elections scheduled for October 31: a comprehensible audit of the Electoral Registry, control over ID issuance, security and diligence in voting stations to prevent the hour-long lines of August 15, elimination of blank voting notebooks like the ones used for the military vote during the PRR, an even redistribution of the heads of the 337 local and 24 regional CNE offices, and a complete public count at the end of the day. In addition, Delsa Solórzano, on behalf of the CD introduced a petition to the Electoral Chamber at the Supreme Court to annul Hugo Chavez’s ratification by the CNE, and to order it to hand over all the material from the August 15 Recall Referendum so as to preserve the evidence of the alleged fraud. CNE authorities have already rejected the public count, and have expressed their willingness to audit between 3 and 5% of the voting stations. The CD is scheduled to release a communiqué this afternoon stating its stand in terms of the fraud accusations and the impending regional elections.

· CNE strikes again while they throw themselves a congratulatory party.

According to CNE president, Francisco Carrasquero, the norms to allow candidate substitution for the regional elections to be held October 31 has been drafted and will soon be passed. Carrasquero offered his statements when leaving the Municipal Theater where the Electoral Power recognized the public institutions which collaborated during the PRR. Attendants included the Minister of Defense, Jorge García, the Attorney General, Isaias Rodríguez, the state news agency Venpres General Director, Orlando Utrera, state television station VTV president, Vladimir Villegas, and the CNE directors, Jorge Rodríguez, Sobella Mejías, and legal advisor, Andrés Brito.

· President Chávez orders, AN legislators ready to comply.

President Hugo Chávez told reporters yesterday in Manaus that after five years, it is necessary to revise the National Constitution to determine if there are aspects that need to be strengthened or reformed. This was the second time in less than a month in which Chávez hints the National Assembly what has to be done next. During his ratification ceremony in a special session at the AN two weeks ago, Chávez told legislators to pass the Social Responsibility in Radio and Television Law, and the Land Act, and to make a revision of the Constitution. Yesterday, former MVR legislator Luis Velásquez Alvaray (he resigned to the government party after presenting the TSJ Law to run for one of the positions as Justice in the new TSJ), presented a paper with 21 necessary amendments to the Constitution where the most controversial is the one to Article 230, presidential re-election, that would allow a president to be re-elected consecutively as many times as s/he wishes, by eliminating the “for one time” phrase. Opposition legislators claim amendments would affect political rights and intend to concentrate more power, diminish the opposition and crush the dissidence in the country. The AN Vice-president informed no draft has been introduced in the Secretariat yet.

· Chávez’s leftist friends meet in Caracas.

The Political Secretariat of the Bolivarian Congress of the Peoples will gather in Caracas on September 16 and 17 to “discuss the impact of the August 15 victory, to coordinate the next protests in Latin America to consolidate the integration advances underway by the progressive governments of Chávez, Castro, Lula and Kirchner, and the peoples of America”, and to prepare the II Congress to be held in December in Caracas. Among the visitors are Argentinean Jorge Cevallos, Bolivian Evo Morales, Pachakutik’s Movement Patricio Ojeda, Nicaraguan Jacinto Suárez, and Salvadoran Nidia Diaz.

· Venezuelan IDs given away for anyone who asks.

The Colombian Minister of Defense, Jorge Alberto Uribe, appeared in the Senate commission on national security and foreign affairs where he told congressmen that they had good evidence that Colombian leaders of narcoterrorist movements may have received IDs thanks to the Venezuelan Nationalization Plan. Uribe, who said he was certain this had been done unknowingly, added he will bring up the subject when he visits Caracas in two weeks to “detect those criminals who may have had access to Venezuelan IDs.” Carolina Barco, Minister of Foreign Affairs, who also appeared in the Commission, informed that some 500,000 Colombians got Venezuelan IDs between February and July 2004. In the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, an illegal agent from Cúcuta, told the reporter that in order “to get a Venezuelan ID, all that was needed was two photos, a Xeroxed copy of the Colombian ID and 200,000 pesos to do the change.” Hugo Cabezas, head of the Venezuelan Immigration and Identification Office, ONIDEX, announced that 80% of the 5,000,076 people who got IDs through Mission Identity and ONIDEX, already held Venezuelan papers, and that only 400,000 corresponded to new IDs, and 230,000 to new Venezuelans. Mission Identity has been extended until February 2005.

· Venezuelan Ambassador to OAS asks USA to leave Chávez alone. In a phone interview in the State television station, VTV, Jorge Valero, Venezuelan Ambassador to the OAS, recommended the US government “should treat President Hugo Chávez with equality, leave their obsession against his legitimate government, and allow the democratic process to flow its course.” Valero also added the departing OAS Secretary General, César Gaviria, “was always interested in favoring the opposition…fortunately, his intentions were frustrated and he is now reacting untimely since there is a decision already adopted by the Permanent Council. Valero added that Gaviria’s opinion on the new TSJ, was a disrespect to the country, a clear proof of hostility against the Revolutionary Process underway in Venezuela and an unacceptance (sic) of the nation’s sovereignty.” Valero expressed his satisfaction that Pecly Moreira had assumed the Mission in Caracas, and speculated that had Jaramillo continued in the Mission, “we would be living a rather conflicting situation in Venezuela.”

· Lula and Chavez do not see eye to eye in South American integration.

Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva and Hugo Chávez, on his first travel abroad after the PRR, met this Wednesday during the Venezuelan-Brazilian Encounter in the Amazonian city of Manaus. Chávez reiterated his warnings that empires, especially, the US government had its eyes placed in the Amazon to seize its huge reservoir of natural resources, and that a military alliance was essential to guarantee the security and sovereignty. He also proposed the creation of a joint oil giant of the existing companies, a continental state bank and Latin American TV news channel to rival CNN; he only got a promise of increased cooperation on less controversial issues. However, Lula gave Chávez a clear support for his administration after the results of August 15, expressing, “There can be no more doubts in any place in the world that there is a true democracy in Venezuela,” and added, “I was criticized two years ago when I called Chávez my friend. Now I tell you (Brazilian businessmen) do not be afraid to invest in Venezuela,”

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