I think the answer is a resounding yes, for quite a number of reasons.
First of all, it is Chavez who has already said he will not accept a decision to go forward on the recall by the CNE. This is bad for him internationally, as both the OAS and the Carter Center will get much more vocal than they currently are if he acts like outside of the law and the decisions by the CNE. Additionally, the Supreme Court, even if manipulated by Chavez can only use “reasonable” constitutional arguments in blocking the recall if someone’s rights have been violated or electoral rules have not been followed. Both seem far fetched to prove even if Chavez controls the Court.
I know international opinion is not that important short term, but it is important in the end. In fact, Chavez has been able to survive in large part because of the largely positive opinion by the international community that he was the constitutionally elected President of Venezuela. But were he to step so far outside the law, this would definitely help the opposition. I emphasize, it will not get rid of Chavez short term, but remember Fujimori!
Today’s move by Sumate to give out certificates to people that signed, was much cleverer than people give it credit for. The CNE really would have to stretch the rules to eliminate one million signatures from the Reafirmazo by the opposition. By handing out these certificates that people signed, Sumate has added a significant unknown variable into this equation.
If Sumate distributes five hundred thousand to a million of these certificates (On Sunday Lara and Zulia will have similar drives and there could be a dozen in the days to come), this will create a huge uncertainty for the CNE. Read article 31 of the regulations for recall referenda. It simply says you have five days to show up and say your signature was good and was somehow disqualified. If a person shows up with a copy of his/her signature even if it comes from a “plana”, the signature is simply good according to the rules. Thus, the CNE would need to disqualify 1.4-1.5 million signatures to really feel comfortable about it. This would require outright (and outrageous) fraud by the CNE.
By revealing that he would go to the Supreme Court, Chavez might have relieved some of the pressure from the CNE Directors themselves. They could simply argue that the decision was taken out of their hands when he said that and the TSJ will decide for them
Finally, there was no violence today, which is Chavez’ game…Definitely much better off.
(P.S. That things are better for the opposition, does not mean things will get better. If you can, read today’s interview in page A-6 of El Nacional with someone that knows Chavez quite well, Captain Luis Valderrama, who was in charge of taking Valencia in the 1992 coup attempt. Just in case, should my blog dissapear sometime in the future, look for it to surface somehere else in the blogosphere under the name Satan’s Poop. Only the paranoid survive)