Legal Consultants to the National Electoral Council Recommend Invalidation of the Recall Referendum Signatures

The CNE is not bound by the recommendation, but is scheduled to issue a ruling later this week.

The recommendation of the National Electoral Council’s (CNE) legal consultant was leaked to journalists yesterday. According to the consultant, the petition requesting a recall referendum should be rejected on three legal grounds. The CNE is not bound by the recommendation, but is scheduled to issue a ruling later this week on the 3.2 million signatures which the organization Sumate submitted last August 20th.

According to the legal consultant, Andrés Brito, the signatures should be rejected, first, because the signatures were collected prior to the half-way point of the president’s term in office, which is, according to the constitution, the point at which a recall referendum may be called. Second, the wording of the petition was inappropriate. And, third, the petition was not even framed as a petition to the CNE, the only body responsible for convoking a recall referendum.

Opposition leaders, such as Aridubal Aguilar of the opposition coalition Democratic Coordinator, immediately said that if the CNE follows the consultant’s advice and rejects the petition, within two weeks it can convoke another petition drive and collect the necessary signatures all over again. However, so as not to concede so easily, the opposition parties Causa R and Solidarity have announced that they will organize a demonstration in support of the signatures, scheduled for today.

US Ambassador Shapiro’s Visit to the CNE

While making the announcement for the demonstration, the opposition leaders also denounced President Chavez for pressuring the CNE to reject the signatures. They also said that Chavez “has denied the CNE the power to decide which visits it should receive.” This latter point was made in reference to Chavez’ denouncing of U.S. Ambassador Shapiro, who visited the CNE last week, as meddling in Venezuelan internal affairs. During Shapiro’s visit, he offered technical assistance to the CNE, so that it could organize a clean and speedy recall referendum.

Meanwhile, the secretary generals of the main parties that constitute Chavez’ governing coalition, Fifth Republic Movement (MVR), We Can (Podemos), and Fatherland for All (PPT) announced that they would file a formal complaint with the Organization of American States and the United Nations against U.S. ambassador Shapiro. Ismael Garcia, secretary general of the PPT said, “In this country we have organized seven electoral processes [in the past four years] and no cooperation with any country was necessary.” Venezuela’s foreign Minister, Roy Chaderton, however, denied that the Venezuelan government would participate in the complaint filed by the party leaders. Referring to the parties, he said, “they are autonomous and have their own way of acting.” Nonetheless, Shapiro’s visit to the CNE was “extemporaneous, unnecessary, and hasty,” according to Chaderton.

With information from Globovisión