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Venezuela Breaking News

By Miguel Octavio

By the usual 3-2 vote, the Consejo Nacional Electoral decided to keep under observation 148,000 forms with the signatures for the petition requesting for President Chavezí recall. Next week, a decision will be made on how people will be able to contest the exclusion of their signature from the petition. Sobella Mejias, who voted against the decision, said this is a flagrant violation of the regulations the CNE approved and of the Constitutional right for requesting a recall. This is a very dirty decision and a rip off by the pro-Chavez members of the CNE, violates the law and goes against the tradition of what a personís signature is worth and means.

Essentially in one big swipe, the CNE managed to set aside close to 1.4 million signatures of the 3.4 million submitted by the opposition, managing in this way to reduce the number below the 2.4 million required to hold a referendum to recall Hugo Chavez. The trick was to disqualify those signatures in which the person at the poll booth gathering the petition filled out the data, copying it from the national idenity card of the person signing. This was legal as the regulations only said that the person had to sign and stamp his/her fingerprint and the data had to match that of the electoral registry. International observers monitored the process and both the OAS and the Carter Center knew that the opposition had the required minimum for the recall to take place.

What apparently will happen now, is that hundreds of thousands of people will once again have to go out to say they did sign the petition. This is a travesty, a simple petition has turned into a complex process in which the person's signature and fingerprint were questioned without any basis whatsoever. The burden of proof was on the electoral body to show they were fake, not the other way around. Getting enough people to go and say they did sign is doable, but this uses up time, which is of the essence. According to the country's Constitution, if the recall vote takes place after Aug. 19th., Chavez' fourth anniversary in office, instead of electing a new President, the Vice-President takes over.

This is the third time that a referendum petition handed in by the opposition is blocked on the basis of technicalities. So much for the "participative" democracy that Hugo Chavez used to proclaim.

It is a very sad day for Venezuelan democracy, whatever is left of it.



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