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Venezuela: Journalist charged in military courts.

By Sol Maria Castro, veninvestor.com

Patricia Poleo, director of the daily El Nuevo País and recipient of the King Juan Carlos of Spain award for journalism, appeared Monday before a military prosecutor as a witness to give more information on a video tape she showed in a television interview, with Cuban citizens seemingly arriving from a trip and chatting with a Sixth Regional Command of the National Guard and was then given a citation for March 25, accused of inciting rebellion and defaming the Armed Forces. According to Venezuelan laws, civilians are to be tried only in civilian courtrooms except in times of war.

Constitutional Chamber annuls sentence from Electoral Chamber.

As was to be expected, this Tuesday noon, the Constitutional Chamber annulled last Monday’s decision by the Electoral Chamber granting the National Electoral Council the revision appeal. The Constitutional Chamber ruled that the Electoral Chamber exceeded its competence, and prohibited it of knowing of any other recall referenda-related matter until it rules on the appeal introduced by the government’s campaign command, Comando Ayacucho. The sentence, signed by the three pro-government justices and two substitutes, can be read here.

Chronogram on Regional elections advances.

The period for candidates’ registration to run for governors, mayors, and councilmen to State Legislatures has been extended 48 hours to March 25; candidates had been given those two days to present or complete their missing requisites anyway. Until yesterday 550 candidates had already signed up for the 609 offices (23 governors, 337 mayors, 229 legislatures, 20 councilmen to the Caracas Metropolitan Council). Once the National Electoral Council checks the signatures supporting the registration against the Permanent Electoral Registry, REP, and the rest of the requisites, it will publish the results by May 2. Between April 3 and May 2, colors and position of the different parties in the electoral card will be discussed and assigned. The opposition umbrella group Democratic Coordinator has not agreed on all candidates so the decision was to have all candidates registered and proceed with the alliances. According to the Suffrage Law, there are 60 days (until the beginning of June) for candidates to drop from the electoral race and support an only candidate.

Updates on Verification Process of Recall Referendum Petitions after 95 days.

ARTICLE 31: The National Electoral Council will publish in at least, one printed national medium the results of the process of validation to which Numeral 3, Article 28 refers, indicating the numbers of the identity cards of the referendum petitioners. In a five continuous day period following the publication, the signatory who was rejected may go to the National Electoral Council personally, to repair any material error in which the Electoral Administration may have incurred during the verification of his data. Otherwise, the rejection will remain firm. Likewise, the elector who alleges he did not sign the form, may go to the National Electoral Council to requests his immediate exclusion from the total of signatures. In both cases, the National Electoral Council will publish the format of the communications through which the electors will make their requests. [From the Referendum Norms passed by the National Electoral Council on September 25, 2003].

§ The National Electoral Council, CNE, introduced an “opposition appeal” to the Electoral Chamber at the Supreme Court, TSJ, this Tuesday morning, to neutralize the ruling the Electoral Chamber sentenced last Monday, according to which the signatures with similar handwriting are valid, and the process of repair should be held according to Article 31 of the Norms previously approved by the Council. According to the TSJ procedures, an opposition appeal can only be filed 48 hours after the body has been notified of the sentence (the CNE was notified the same day, Monday, March 15).

§ The OAS and Carter Center delegation met with the CNE president, Francisco Carrasquero, this Tuesday morning, the first meeting after Carrasquero’s statements to the press accusing the international bodies of being biased, and suggesting they should leave, and Jaramillo’s public response requesting the president to make the evidence he allegedly had for his accusations public.

§ The Democratic Coordinator negotiating team (Alberto Quirós Corradi, Nelson Rampersad and Felipe Mujica) is awaiting the return of CNE director Jorge Rodríguez to resume the discussion on the forms with similar handwriting, and those annulled by the CTS, while all await the decisions on the TSJ.

Situation report as of today, March 23, 2004:

· Disappeared: There are 8 people listed as disappeared, people that right now no one knows where they are in the worst fashion of the gorilla dictatorships of the South Cone.

· Tortured: Nine have been documented victims of torture “electric shocks, blows to the head and back, cold water showers, humiliations, food and water deprivation, etc.

· Fatalities: 17 people dead (14 confirmed with names and location, 10 in Caracas, and 4 in the countryside (Miranda, Carabobo and Zulia States).

· Wounded: 1,758 in the opposition (including 400 of asphyxia; the rest by plastic bullets, pellets, marbles and the result of different cuts and concussions) and 9 National Guard soldiers, 5 of them shot according to General Villegas Solarte.

· Media attacks: 17 media professionals injured or attacked since demonstrations against the CNE started on February 27, including three with fire guns wounds (a RCTV cameraman for the third time during President Chávez’s administration). 3 other journalists detained by security forces in the last few days.

· Arrested: 410 people arrested nationwide, including Carlos Melo, CD Street Action coordinator, and Mayor Capriles Radonsky’s two escorts who were all transferred with two other people to El Rodeo jail, and Santiago Monteverde, vice-president of the Caracas Stock Market who appeared in court and is jailed, pending trial, in the DISIP).

· Warrant for arrest: An arrest warrant has been issued against Baruta Municipality Mayor, Henrique Capriles Radonsky, presumably for charges against his performance during the events of April 12, 2002 at the Cuban Embassy in his municipality. However, his attorneys have not been shown his file so far violating his rights. Mayor Capriles Radonsky has promised to appear at the General Attorney’s Office as soon as the real charges are known by his attorneys.

Government retaliations against PRR petition signatories:

o Pablo Castro, executive secretary of the Venezuelan Labor Confederation (CTV), has said 7,600 workers of state-run organizations have been fired from their positions for signing the PRR petition.

o Sunday and early Monday morning, Health and Social Development Minister, Roger Capella warned that those who signed the petition for the referendum request would be fired, alleging that the participation in the signature collection drive was "a terrorist act.."

o Yesterday, Labor Minister María Cristina Iglesias said that no worker from the public administration has been under pressure or fired for having signed the presidential recall petition. "It has not been and it is not the will of the revolutionary government to violate any of the (constitutional) rights," the minister said. Minister Iglesias said she was not aware of Minister Capella’s statements, and suggested it was probably a video manipulation.

o It is common knowledge pressure to public employees goes from memos circulating in offices warning employees to go to repair if they signed the PRR petition to lay-offs or transfers for not accepting to do so. Other measures includes listing the undersigned at the entrance of their workplace as in PDVSA La Campiña where 900 employees are listed and have been told their photograph will be posted next to their names (confirmed information). The cases known include 200 workers dismissed at Metro, the Metropolitan subway system, 33 managers from state-run electrical companies Enelven, and Cadafe, 39 doctors from different hospitals. Also, FEDEUNEP (the public employee union) reported three formal complaints of aggressions and threats from public workers ( Doctor Juan Armando Chiossonne, working at the University Hospital of Caracas, was intercepted in a stairway of the hospital by an armed man who insulted him and warned that the physician would repent of "sabotaging the (revolutionary) process." The man said that he knew the whereabouts of Chiossonne's wife and kids. Anahir Yépez, a former employee of the Sucre Mayor's of Office, and an unidentified worker of the subway company Metro de Caracas, reported that they had been clearly told by their superiors that they were fired for signing against President Chávez). Employees at state-run Enelbar, PDVSA, Armed Force components, as well as at a number of regional government offices, schools and hospitals have been summoned to Personnel offices to be notified they are to sign documents certifying they did not sign the PRR petition if they are to keep their jobs.

o There are also a number of complaints from people who have been denied their passports or identity cards (issued or renewed) for having signed the PRR petition. The latest denounce from a radio personality and political analyst, Angel Oropeza, in which his wife reports they were told at Onidex their two children were “denied their right to holding passports because their parents signed the PRR petition.”



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