A lot has happened during my absence from blogging (Sorry for the hiatus, I am back now), but in reality nothing has really changed. Hugo Chávez continues to look for a way out of a reacll referendum, but it appears to be too late for that. I never understood why Chavez was allowing the petition drive to take place. Basically he believed his advisers that told him that with all the tricks in the way and all the requirements anddifficulties it would be almost impossible for the opposition to gather the required signatures. Now that they have been collected, Chavez wants a way out, but the doors are closing rapidly. Before the signature drive, the CNE and the Government had said repeatedly that no foreign technical advisers would be allowed to oversee the process of collecting the signatures. Something changed in the last month, most likely the charges of fraud by Chavez and his Government, while international observers and the military saw with their own eyes the successful drive by the opposition. This simply means that it will be essentially impossible to invalidate the more than one million signatures that need to be invalidated for the referendum not to take place. Thus, the invitation by the Head of teh CNE to teh OAS and the Carter Centaer to oversee the verification of signatures becomes a very significant event.
Chavez’ words yesterday that if the CNE allowed the referendum to go forward he would not accept it are simply hollow words. He no longer has the mandate or the power to not recognize it and the CNE will have no recourse but to approve the recall referendum. That is why now the Chavistas are inventing new criteria, such as the digitization of all of the fingerprints in order to validate them. They are trying to invent a new concept beyond the what our democracy really is. If they think there was fraud, or that some signatures were faked, the most direct way of proving it simply be for the referendum to take place. Venezuelan elections have fewer requirements and are fairer than the recent petition process invented to stop the opposition from recalling Chavez.
The opposition will submit all of its signatures this week (Curiously, the Chavistas have yet to hand in all of theirs). Within a month the CNE will rule on the validity of the opposition signatures. Chavez claims that he will not accept it if the CNE recognizes the signatures. The opposition will not accept that more than a million signatures be invalidated on some made up technicality and neither will the international observers. If the number of signatures is there, and they are there by far, the CNE will be forced to approve the recall referendum. Then Chavez will try to change the way that process works, to no avail. In the end, Chavez’ statements continue to show that after five years in power Hugo Chávez still does not understand that he is not the law and that there is such a thing as separation of powers. Combine that with the fact that he likes to micromanage (He actually said he wanted to check the signatures himself) and the huge failure of his Government can easily be understood. At this point, attacking the CNE will do little for his popularity and not recognizing the recall referendum is simply not an option. There will be a recall referendum and Hugo Chavez mandate wil be recalled, his worst option is not to allow and he knows it.