The roller coaster is definitely on again. Today was once again of positives and negatives, confusing information, confrontation, all of which in the end leave me wondering if anything truly changed in the last 24 hours. Emotionally, this is very tiring, but I guess that is what underdevelopment is all about.
The most important development in my opinion, was probably the last one in the day, when Hug Chavez himself, the same one who claims to be a Democrat, the same one that has been challenging the opposition to say they will abide by whatever the referee, meaning the Electoral Board, the someone that held two referenda without rules, finally said today that if the CNE rules in favor of a recall referendum against him, he would go to the Supreme Court to challenge the decision.
Chavez showed here, here and here, “evidence” of the fraud committed by the opposition in the gathering of the signatures against him. He single cited cases that would not survive the verification process, made generalizations about foreigners participating, but in the end his charges of massive fraud will simply not hold water. In fact, Chavez even changed the requirements saying that the regulations required people to fill out the data with their own hands.
To me Chavez press conference is actually a positive. It indicates, that despite the tricks, the scheming and the changes in rules and the Government-‘s pressure, the CNE finds it impossible to disqualify one million signatures and Chavez is getting ready for a decision against him. Positive, because this is the third time the opposition has submitted signatures for a referendum and if Chavez resorts to legalese, maybe the world will realize what the true nature of this “democrat” is.
This time around, the country, the military, international observers and the world have seen how the opposition gathered more than the required signatures and all types of treachery are being invoked to block the referendum. If Chavez goes to the Court and the recall is blocked, his much defended and tenuous credentials as a democrat would have disappeared which is a positive fro the opposition even if it is only longer term.
Remarkably, on the same day, Chávez named yet another General as the candidate for the Governorship of Zulia State, increasing the military presence in his candidacies, violating the law for declaring the candidacy of an active General and going against the wishes of his own party in that state. Neither the law nor democracies are being respected by the President.
But there were other worrisome aspects to the day. While a National guard General said that nobody would be allowed near the CNE, the pro-Chavez campers that have surrounded the headquarters for the last three days attacked the driver for the OAS representative, members of Primero Justicia and William Ojeda from Un solo Pueblo. (There was another incident against reporters in Valencia, but reports blame the attack on either opposition or pro-Chavez supporters) When the same General was asked whether those camping outside the CNE would be removed he said they would if they became violent, but I guess violence is a one way street in Venezuela these days. Pictures from these attacks taken from the media are shown here:
Meanwhile and continued a pattern the Government said it could not guarantee the security of its citizens, telling the opposition not to go to the CNE. Set aside was the law. The law that says the CNE should have decided by today, the law that granted the opposition the right to march because it obtained the permits, but not for the Government to schedule a market in the path of the march. But it has been so long since the law has been respected that Government officials forget it even has to be mentioned.
Observers for both the OAS and the Carter Center did go to the CNE again today to express their concerns about the delays. Reportedly, they used tough words in private with the CNE reminding the Board of the fact that the will of the people has to be given priority over formalities and once again ratifying that they believe there are sufficient signatures to activate the recall against the President and that it is the actual vote in that referendum that really matters.
Before that meeting CNE Director Battaglini questioned the forms filled out by the same person, suggesting they were fraudulent and advancing an opinion that he should not have. More so, given the fact that all of these forms have been signed by pro-Chavez witnesses. However, he did say that no more than 50,000 of these forms have the problem which is only half the number of signatures that they need to disqualify in order to block the recall referendum.
To close the day, the CNE announced that the decision will be made before February 29th. adding yet one more day to the deadline, and violating the law by more than 30 days since the signatures were handed in before Christmas and the CNE had thirty days to evaluate them. In perhaps on of the positive notes of the day, the CNE also said that it will consider the request by CNE Director Ezequiel Zamora to subtract form the days towards the actual vote on the referendum the excess days used by the CNE to approve the recall.
Tomorrow the opposition will march to protest the delays and to hand all of those that signed in Caracas a copy of their signature, with the number of the form and box in which it was turned over to the CNE. In this manner, if someone’s signature is disqualified, they can go to the CNE in the five days that will be set aside for that purpose. Reportedly, only a delegation from the opposition will go to the CNE itself to prevent violence. I will have reports and pictures sometime tomorrow of this rally.