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Venezuela: Local News Review 15/10/04

By Sol Castro,

· Election of governors, mayors and councilmen scheduled for October 31.

A total of 8,089 people are running for 609 positions to be elected October 31: 23 governors, 337 mayors, 236 legislators, and 13 councilmen to the District Council. Electors will have to vote an average of eight times in the 23,595 touch screen machines located in the 28,617 voting stations; each elector will take between 9 and 20 minutes (according to the drill last Sunday) depending on the location.

· Violations to the Organic Law of Suffrage and Political Participation so far.

Ø Article 26: Absences, temporary or absolute, of CNE directors, will be covered by their substitutes. (Zamora resigned September 27 and his substitute has not been convoked)

Ø Article 34: CNE will select the members of the subaltern electoral bodies through a public drawing within the seven days after convoking the electoral process.

Ø Article 37: The Electoral Registry Office will elaborate a preliminary list of Higher education graduates as eligible members to Electoral Boards six months in advance before an electoral election or referendum.

Ø Article 38: The Electoral Registry Office will elaborate and publish the preliminary list of professors and students eligible as members of voting stations six months previous to an electoral process.

Ø Article 39: The CNE must publish the list of electors 45 days before the electoral process.

Ø Article 40: CNE will select a total of 60 numbers, from the total number of electors, through a public draw within the seven days after the electoral process is convoked. (Done September 29, four months later)

Ø Article 110: The Electoral Registry Office will suspend the registration of those who do not reside where they indicated during registration.

Ø Article 118: CNE will announce the date of closure of the Electoral Registry at least 6 months before an election, and will publish the list of those whose registration has been cancelled or suspended.

Ø Article 119: For each election, the Electoral Registry, REP, will be closed 90 days before the election (REP was closed September 8; therefore, the regional elections cannot take place before December 8)

Ø Article 120: CNE is to publish current REP at least 60 days before an election (not done yet)

Ø Article 121: Appeals to REP entries must be filed at least 30 days before an election (dependent on #120).

Ø Article 152: CNE must publish date of election at least six months in advance.

Ø Article 156: Voting and totaling machines, equipments, programs and data bases must be duly tested, stored, and safeguarded in adequate locations in the municipalities where they will be used at least a month before the election.

Ø Article 157: In the case of automatic systems, the data will only be transmitted once the scrutiny is over.

Ø Article 168: CNE is to establish the settings for the process of an audited scrutiny, six months before the election.

Ø Articles 267 and 268: CNE must publish the General Electoral Procedure 3 months before the election, and extraordinary modifications can only be made by a qualified majority.

· Headlines at one blow

o Tulio Alvarez’s final report on the fraudulent PRR will be presented this Friday, October 15.

o Tomorrow the National Assembly will continue the second discussion of the Gag Law.

o CNE director and president of the National Electoral Board, Jorge Rodríguez, rejected criticisms by the opposition for questioning the Electoral Power, and the results of the August 15 referendum. Rodríguez argued such claims do not favor the October 31 local elections.

o This Wednesday, journalist and TV personality Napoleón Bravo, was summoned to the General Attorney’s Office by the 6th National Prosecutor, Luisa Ortega, following an investigation on alleged opinions aired in his TV show against the Supreme Court, TSJ.

o Brigadier General Francisco Uson’s defense attorney announced they will appeal the conviction sentence, 5 years and 6 months, issued by the 1st Military Court for an alleged insult to the National Armed Forces. Usón, who was Minister of Finances until April 11, 2002, when he resigned because of the Miraflores massacre, was sentenced for having explained what a flamethrower is like and how it operates during a TV show in which they speculated on how the burnt soldiers at Fort Mara were injured, and two died.

o Venezuelan Ambassador to the OAS acknowledged that although there was a “very remote” possibility, Venezuela could propose its own candidate to the position of Secretary General. He confirmed Venezuela opposes the candidacy of Salvadoran former president, Francisco Flores. Tony Saca, current president of El Salvador said he respected Venezuela’s decision. Apparently, Venezuela is to back José Miguel Insulza, Chilean Minister of Domestic Affairs.

o Bolivia received a donation of 11 military training airplanes (Mentor T-34) built in the 1950s from the government of Venezuela.

· Guilty on charges of cooperating with rebellion without a rebellion. At midnight Thursday, Judge Gerson Niño sentenced eight of the nine Tachira leaders, Saúl Solorzano, Omar Guillén, José Neira, Miguel Jacobo, Orlando Pantaleón, William Forero, Danny Ramírez, and Elsy de Peña, charged with instigation to rebellion for events outside the Governor’s Palace during April 12, 2002. The eight received 3 to 12 year’s sentences as cooperators and accessories to rebellion although there was no evidence of who they cooperated with. Wilfredo Tovar was the only one acquitted.

· Mayors and governors were not allowed into the CNE and meeting was suspended. The scheduled meeting between the CNE directors and the opposition mayors and governors for Wednesday morning was suspended without any explanation. Soon after, the National Guard barred more than 150 representatives of the opposition from entering the premises, and ignored CNE Director Sobella Mejías’s orders to let them in. The opposition electoral campaign taskforce intended to report a series of irregular situations they have collected as evidence in the Electoral Registry. In the end, Mejías received the 24 boxes containing evidence of the irregularities: 1,811,773 registered electors without known addresses, continued registration in military barracks, and government offices despite the fact the Registry was closed last month. The CNE has transferred over a million people to the 752 newly created electoral centers nationwide. Governor Lapi warned the CNE that if they are not to guarantee a calm, transparent and serious process following the law, they will be forced to defend the law on the streets.

· Columbus offered as a trophy to Chavez. The 1904 bronze statue of Christopher Columbus by Venezuelan sculptor Rafael de la Coba, located in Caracas, was toppled down from its marble pedestal, tried, found guilty of “imperialist genocide”, hung and then dragged to a nearby truck by a group of Chávez’s supporters who then transported it to the Teresa Carreño Theater where Chavez was attending a play in native languages on Columbus Day. Libertador Police managed to rescue parts of the statue, which had been hanged head down from a tree, and to arrest five of the vandals (José Freitas, William Escalona, Freddy Tabarquino, José Meliá Valero and John Becerra) after dispersing the crowd with tear gas and plastic bullets. The invitation to gather at the monument and judge the explorer for 500 years of “anger” had been published in an unofficial government web site ( which later celebrated the act with these words, “Just like the statute of Saddam in Baghdad, on this October 12, 2004, the statute of the tyrant Columbus has fallen in Caracas.” Chávez rechristened Columbus Day as the Day of the Indigenous Resistance in 2002 and has blamed Columbus for ushering a genocide of the aboriginal population although the native population in Venezuela amounts to only 354,000 (2%) according to the latest census.

· ILO in Venezuela hears complaints from the workers. The International Labor Organization, ILO, contact mission will meet Thursday with Fedepetrol, Unapetrol, Fogade, Fedeunep, Metro, FetraFalcón, Codesa, Hidrofalcón, and CNE workers and representatives to hear of violations, including firings and political persecutions, to labor and union freedoms by the government. The mission, which will also meet with government authorities, is led by Argentinean former Labor Minister Jorge Zappia, and conformed by five people. They may present their final report in the Administration Council scheduled for next month.

· Venezuela keeps losing ground. Venezuela lost three points in the Growth Competitiveness Index, ranking 85th with 3.30 points, compared to the year 2003, according to annual report issued by the World Economic Forum. In Latin America, Venezuela ranked 14th, surpassing only Bolivia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Paraguay.

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