Puebla, Mexico, September 15, 2016 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Opposition and pro government rallies broke out across Venezuela Friday, after the country’s electoral authority postponed a key decision on a long awaited recall referendum.
Thousands of anti-government protesters filled Caracas’ Plaza Brion de Chacaito to demand that the National Electoral Council (CNE) announce the start date of the next phase in the process for a presidential recall referendum. Similar protests were called across Venezuela by opposition leaders.
“There will be demonstrations in all [state] capitals,” said Jesus Chuo Torrealba, the head of the main opposition group, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD).
The protests have prompted the CNE to close their offices across the country, citing concerns demonstrations could turn violent. The national guard and police have been deployed to protect CNE sites from vandalism. As of midday, there were no reports of violence, though some opposition leaders vowed to push for more protests if the CNE doesn’t release a timetable for the next phase of the referendum preparation.
The CNE enraged MUD supporters late Thursday, when they postponed a decision to set a date on when the opposition can begin collecting signatures for the recall. The opposition will need to collect four million signatures in a three day window to trigger a presidential recall referendum. The process is the final hurdle before a vote can take place, and the CNE was expected to set a time frame Friday.
Thursday’s decision to put off setting a date for the process was the third time the CNE has put off giving the opposition a window to begin collecting signatures. The council blamed opposition protesters for the delay, pointing out its workers were forced to stay home throughout the day due to concerns of violence.
The MUD has long accused the CNE of dragging its feet. If the recall referendum takes place before January 10, President Nicolas Maduro could be forced to resign, and snap elections may be held. If the referendum takes place later, Maduro will be automatically replaced by his vice president for the remainder of the term if he loses.
A July poll by Datanalisis found nearly 80 percent of Venezuelans want Maduro out of office.
Despite the grim numbers, on Friday thousands of Maduro supporters rallied in central Caracas.
Addressing rally goers, Maduro accused the MUD of seeking to use voter fraud to secure the signatures needed for the recall.
“They want to raise the dead [to vote], but sooner rather than later, the Venezuelan people and Venezuelan laws will bury this fraud,” he said.
State media showed images of red clad government supporters flooding one of the city’s main thoroughfares, cheering and waving Venezuelan flags. However, a Venezuelanalysis image analysis found at least one photo circulated by state media was a stock image dating back to at least 2011. The image showed rally goers numbering in the tens of thousands, and was used by state newspaper Correo del Orinoco.