Nobody - not in the government, not in the opposition - expected the avalanche of people we've seen yesterday and today signing to request Maduro's recall.
Halfway through Thursday afternoon, a Corpoelec pick-up truck pulled up in front of Henrique Capriles’s Bello Monte HQ building. Four guys in Corpoelec uniforms stepped out and made their way to the signature collection area just outside. The Capriles volunteers there took a minute to size them up before the first said, “Mira pana, where is it that we can go put our signatures down?”
It was that kind of day in Venezuela yesterday. The internal debates within MUD about whether to aim for a limited, “surgical” signature gathering drive centered on easy-to-mobilize party activists or to go for a broader citizen mobilization became a moot point: an avalanche of frustrated people poured out into the streets to sign, and show the enormous thirst there is for an orderly way out of Venezuela’s socialist catastrophe.
Nicolás Maduro, normally so loquacious, went into head-in-the-sand mode, simply refusing to address what was happening all around him. His shock is understandable. Nobody -not in the opposition, not in the government- expected numbers like these.
CNE had given us a month to collect 197,978 signatures to begin the recall process. Many multiples of that have come out to sign, handily exceeding the target in all 24 states. How many? The Wall Street Journal says 1.1 million by the end of day one. We understand the tally by the end of day two is substantially higher than that, but we haven’t been able to confirm a number.
Yes, this is just the first step in a ridiculously slow, needlessly tortuous, laughably unfair process.
Yes, what we have now are raw, unprocessed signatures – not all of which will be deemed valid by CNE.
Yes, 197,978 actual voters will still need to be validated and then show up, in person, at the CNE seats in their state capitals – potentially hundreds of kilometers away – to validate their signatures.
Yes, that’s only an amuse bouche for the much bigger challenge: the 20% of each state’s electoral roll – a total of 3,959,560 people – who will need to sign to actually request a referendum.
Yes, there are still a million excuses CNE could come up with to scuttle the process.
An yes, we will eventually need 7,585,579 actual votes to recall Maduro on referendum day.
El camino es duro, pero es el camino.
Today, though, was not a day for any of that. Today was a day to know hope.
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