For Wednesday, October 19, 2016. Translated by Javier Liendo.

Without any justification to ignore the constitutional mandate to hold gubernatorial elections in 2016, Tibisay Lucena, head of the National Electoral Council, demonstrated what discretional power’s for, announcing preliminary dates for coming elections – illegally and unconstitutionally extending the governors’ terms for six months. The provisional electoral schedule for 2017 includes: request for primaries for gubernatorial elections, set for February, 2017. Primaries for gubernatorial elections, set for March – April, 2017. Gubernatorial elections by the end of the first half of 2017. Municipal elections by the end of the second half of 2017. The recall referendum wasn’t mentioned for a reason.

Regarding the registry of political parties, Tibisay said that the CNE’s waiting for a request they submitted to the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, and they will resume the activity as soon as they receive a reply. Finally, the rectora reported that the National Electoral Board will give the CNE fair warning of any changes to the electoral schedule. The theory in social media is that the announcement of this vague electoral timetable is the prologue for shutting down the recall referendum -a necessary cushion so that the government isn’t considered a dictatorship- in case the TSJ issued a decision concerning the lawsuit about the “crimes” committed during the 1% signature collection drive. Yesterday, the CNE openly admitted its absolute subordination to the Executive Branch. Just because they can.

One for the other

This Tuesday morning, the National Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN) posted the image of Voluntad Popular member José Vicente García, a councilman for Táchira state, arrested for alleged possession of two military uniforms and several grenades. Contrary to the protocol they use with criminals, whom they place with their backs to the camera or with their faces covered, the councilman was photographed with his face fully visible, behind a table containing the aforementioned objects. By late afternoon, another picture went viral: Francisco (Pancho) Márquez Lara, also a VP member, was released after 121 days of being arbitrarily detained. Even though he’s innocent, he’ll have to leave the country in forced exile, as established by his release, product of several diplomatic procedures.

Harassment escalates

The SEBIN went to Sucre municipality’s Mayor’s Office to deliver a summons for mayor Carlos Ocariz. In a press conference, the mayor reported that three directors of the mayor’s office were also summoned and that the regime seeks “to make a case against Sucre’s municipal police.” He took the opportunity to remark that the opposition can’t lose the focus on the 20% signature collection drive -from October 26th to 28th- to activate the recall referendum. The Democratic Unity Roundtable condemned the harassment against the mayor. Lawmaker Henry Ramos Allup said that the government’s trying to dismantle preparations for the 20% drive, recommending Ocariz not to give himself in, because when dissidents go to police headquarters, even without an arrest warrant, “they get arrested, put in prison and who knows when they’re released,” he said.

Blocking the National Assembly

Parliament suspended this Tuesday’s plenary because the PSUV raised a stage at esquina de San Francisco, one of the Assembly’s access points. The speaker was Diosdado Cabello, who was strangely accompanied onstage by some guys who had little emotional capacity to help him with reactions to his speech. Attendance to the rally was visibly patchy despite the narrow street, el finado’s rag doll, PDVSA’s balloons, the flags and the trucks packed with cameras. The speech was a loop of threats. But relax, he claimed that he doesn’t want to be President because he already held that post in 2002. He should think of another emotional finale, because the resort of calling for doubtful chavistas to go to El Cuartel de la Montaña so they can hear el finado’s voice reminding them that hunger’s worth it as long as the PSUV remains in power, is already quite stale.

More conflicts

The Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict (OVCS) registered 543 protests during September, an average of 18 daily protests all over the country, 11% more than last year’s reports. Until October, the OVCS has registered 5,268 protests in 2016. The main motives behind these protests are: food (condemning scarcity and food shortages,) by far the main cause of street demonstrations in Venezuela; political and neighboring rights, as well a demonstrations of political party supporters. 21 lootings and 33 looting attempts were registered in September alone, 100% more than September, 2015. Remember the sugar on the street.

Who will Eulogio sue this time?

While the energy company Petrobar (Paraguay) expressed doubts about the amount PDVSA claims, refuting the jurisdiction of the French arbitral tribunal to solve the dispute, investors also backed up before the third extension of the bond swap proposed by PDVSA this Monday. If the operation fails, low oil prices -plus low production- will affect PDVSA’s capacity to obtain cash, which would prevent the company from honoring its debt. The possibility of a default negatively affected the market’s perception and even Telesur reported on this.

In his 70th cadena, Nicolás openly lied about today’s march, claiming that it covered four and a half kilometers and that there were more than 200,000 people. He also read the TSJ’s decision which authorizes him to approve the National Budget, adding that the opposition has turned the National Assembly into a useless institution and that the victory on December 6th was a moment of confusion. Praising lawmaker Hugbel Roa, calling him “the lawmaker of the flying microphone,” he gave him the floor so he could explain that his reaction was prompted by unacceptable offenses against el finado. As if he was talking about his own money, Nicolás remarked that he doesn’t want any conflicts about the budget, and invited governors and mayors to go to vice-president Aristóbulo Istúriz’s office to sign the constitutional allocation’s budget, adding the corresponding threat: “Any governor or mayor who refuses to sign the constitutional allocation’s budget, I’ll take special, exceptional measures against you,” saying that they have until next Friday to do so. The guy who claims he’s not an egomaniac, was already three hours into his weekly televised monologue when I turned off the TV. As usual, if he said anything important, we’ll know today.

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