Venezuela's petition drive: A resounding success
The government failed in its attempt to sabotage the collecting of signatures
by the opposition against President Chávez. Despite all the stratagems
to discourage people from signing, there was a massive turnout at the signature
collection centers, so much so that the forms ran out earlier than expected
Not even the rain deterred people from going out to sign, as could be seen from
the pictures broadcast by television, which clearly showed the enthusiasm of
the people petitioning for the removal of President Chávez from office.
There were a number of spanners thrown into the works by the government side,
the last being the CNE forbidding the use of Súmate’s databases
to verify the data in the Permanent Electoral Roll at the signature collection
The actual collection of the signatures was the easiest part of this entire
process, which could culminate in a recall referendum. The verification of the
data using the computers organized by Súmate would have helped to avoid
mistakes when signing, but clearly this was not in the government’s interests.
Anyone accessing the CNE web page to verify his or her data will find no mention
of the date of birth, whereas Súmate did have all the information needed
to fill out the forms. In fact, it was noted that, according to the CNE, there
was one person registered as having been born on February 30. It is estimated
that one out of 20 voters signing has their date of birth incorrectly entered
on the Permanent Electoral Roll.
This does not seem to be mere happenstance. It is thought that some data on
the PER were altered so that the government could later allege that the collection
of the signatures was fraudulent and get a fair percentage of those collected
In addition, the government continues to play psychological games. With their
insistence that they collected more than four million signatures against opposition
deputies in their signature collection effort, they are trying to play down
the importance of those obtained by the opposition against the President. The
government wants to make it look as thought it managed to get more signatures
without cheating than the opposition achieved with its alleged tricks.
But the dye is cast and President Chávez’ days are numbered. Now
the opposition faces the challenge of coming up with a single candidate and
program of unity that will find favor with the electorate and receive the backing
of the majority of the population.
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