For Thursday, September 22, 2016. Translated by Javier Liendo.
The CNE’s rectoras stuck to their pattern: arriving late and remaining silent. They merely issued a press release remarking that once the 20% signatures are collected and all further activities after the collection are fulfilled, they will issue a statement “by late November” for the process to move on. Once legal requirements are fulfilled and the quorum is reached for the activation, the call for a recall referendum would take place in December and, counting the 90 days established by the law, the referendum could take place “by the middle of the first quarter of 2017.” The CNE just decreed that there won’t be a referendum in 2016.
What happened before?
CNE rector Luis Emilio Rondón announced that the 20% signature collection drive will take place from October 26th to 28th, from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Seven daily hours,) that there will be 5,392 captahuellas for the process and that the rectoras decided to violate the Constitution by imposing a collection by state and not national, as is required to revoke the president, as it was done in 2004. Regarding voting centers, there will only be 9.3% of those available (1,355 out of 14,515) and there will be a meeting with the parties between Monday and Tuesday, to fine-tune details. Rondón didn’t vote in view of his peers’ decision.
What did the MUD say?
The spokesman was Jesús Chúo Torrealba, head of the Democratic Unity Roundtable. He spoke with an hour and a half late. He must have drunk a couple of energy drinks before doing it. “We want to ratify today that the Venezuelan people will overcome this, we will defeat them!,” was one of his first phrases, because “nobody can stop” the decision to defeat the regime with votes. He said all MUD members have been convened to articulate the details of the measures they will take, condemning the unconstitutionality of the CNE’s decision, asking the Unity’s spokespeople to be prudent in their statements, announcing that they’re in permanent session and that the decision of whether to accept or reject these conditions for the 20% will be announced later.
What does this mean?
The CNE decided to fail their obligation to guarantee the best conditions for the full exercise of the right to participation and thus, they’re doing all that’s necessary to protect Nicolás. It takes guts to nullify elections, a strange territory for the PSUV, but that would be fairer than this decision. The fact that the CNE’s decision doesn’t come as a surprise, doesn’t make it any less outrageous.
The amount of voters per available machine in the designated hours is the main difficulty to collect the 20% signatures with these imposed -and unconstitutional- conditions, since opposition votes are not evenly spread out across the country, so reaching the 20% will be tough in some states. The opposition needs 3,913,403 voters to sign for the referendum and the CNE argues that it’s enabled the captahuellas necessary to fulfill that 20%, never to surpass it, because they won’t risk this signature collection drive to turn into a de facto recall. So the challenge doesn’t lie in the possibility of collecting more fingerprints per minute, but in this new violation against the exercise of a constitutional right and the CNE’s discretional plans for locating captahuellas across voting centers.
We lose if we accept these conditions and fail to fulfill the goal. If we refuse to participate, a scenario that many compare to the mistake made in the 2005 legislative elections, the recall won’t even be activated.
What did chavismo add?
The PSUV’s first spokesman this Wednesday was lawmaker Pedro Carreño, an unsavory individual with an absurd stage presence, characterized by the fake tone, the vulgar display of facial expressions and the argumentative capacity of a teenager who reads too much Tribuna Popular, although he dresses more like an average consumer of the Latin version of GQ magazine under Ronda magazine’s editorial criteria.
According to Carreño, electing who runs the country or the states isn’t a fundamental human right: “food, medicines and health are fundamental human rights,” exactly the ones chavismo has violated. So in his view, elections aren’t a priority due to the lack of resources, because the economic emergency pervades everything, and while there is a (fictional) economic war, the PSUV won’t “satisfy the personal ambitions of a group at the expense of a country’s sacrifice.”
Entrenched in El Furrial (Monagas state,) even though the TV show took place in PDVSA headquarters in La Campiña, Caracas, Diosdado Cabello only spoke of apátridas and traitors. He had a cork with colored paperboard letters and color-printed news held by pins which he pointed at with an old TV antenna, as he read the headline and commented on those who appear in the pictures. He criticized the conditions proposed by the rectoras because he thinks that the 20% signature collection should be made with 20% of the captahuellas used for the presidential election and in 20% of the time available for that day. He also announced plan B: if the opposition accepts the conditions and manages to collect the 20%, the PSUV will use the TSJ to block the recall with the argument of the 1% signature verification fraud.
The country on Twitter
As I wrote this, people were insulting the MUD more than they insulted the rectoras. Many propose the best reaction, the correct solution, although if you read ten consecutive tweets, you’ll find contradicting ideas only seconds apart. Everybody knows what we must do, even if the CNE decides to block all institutional channels, with no other authority to intervene. With institutional channels blocked, only conflict remains, and that’s a context where many opposition supporters recognize our disadvantage.
Maybe it isn’t the MUD that should be in permanent session, but the entire country. Because I insist, once elections have been blocked, only confrontation remains. Some speak of calling a Constituent Assembly that could be obstructed with similar nerve; others say that it’s impossible to go to the 20% signature collection under these conditions and still others say that we must. We do nothing with a scattered electoral majority, that’s the way we keep being a minority. All opposition parties must work together to reach a decision. The government turned the tables, they destroyed the little democracy the country still had, so unity is the only option.Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.