Friday, September 12, 2003

EL REVOCATORIO (VII)
Back to the drawing board (hopefully!)

Friday 12, September 2003

As was expected since early in the week, the petition for the recall election was denied on two points:

1) Collection time out of place, before the date at which the recall election can be requested.
This is troubling because how could you request legally a recall election on the first day of that "constitutional right"
if you have not been able to collect the signatures of 20% of the electorate?


2) The petition was not well drafted.
This mean that the petitioners were "demanding" a recall election when according to the constitution they can only request the electoral council, CNE, to convoke for a recall election based on the signatures presented. This was Chavez's main argument, as if the people that did not approve of his rule on February 2 were to have changed their mind after a terrible depression and a punishing, not to say vengeful, currency exchange control.

This had been already announced from within the opposition and this is why the Coordinadora Democratica, CD, already tonight announced that the “Reafirmazo” will be held on October 5. It is an interesting play on words from “El Firmazo”, “The Big Signature” which becomes “The Reaffirmation”.

So far so good, in a sick way. These legalistic ploys used to deny the will of the people were expected. It was hoped that the new CNE would have weighted more the political notorious popular movement of February 2 when more than a million of people signed in a single day. But if El Firmazo will not give right now the recall election, it remains that it allowed the opposition to extricate itself from what had become an interminable and useless general strike; while demonstrating to the world that indeed people were willing to take a democratic stance against Chavez, en masse.

However, there are some strange clouds over the day. The new president of the CNE had an almost angry tone when he read the decision, almost a rancorous stance against the opposition arguments that he took great pains (and pleasure?) to refute publicly. The decision was 3 to 2, as expected, but the unnaturally impassive faces of the other 4 parties did reflect the tensions that are already taking place within the 5 directors. In fact the 2 dissident opinion refused to declare today and promised a script later this week. They seemed to try to avoid further tensions within the CNE.

What was more worrisome was that Carrasquero, the president of the CNE, went out of his way, and duties, to criticize Sumate and say that he would not accept signatures collated by Sumate, making it a third reason to invalidate the recall election petition. This does reflect perfectly the position of the Vice President that wants to disqualify Sumate as a way to slow down any new signature recollection. The specious argument was that Sumate was not an NGO or a political party. That around 400 “representative groups” supported Sumate in delivering the signatures seems irrelevant for Carrasquero. But this is rather silly since Sumate can be easily dismantled and rebuilt in a different guise. Or it can turn in all the signatures to a group of political parties for them to bring to the CNE. One wonders what obscure interests is the CNE president suddenly following. At least now it is clear that he is not as impartial as some people would have liked him to be.

Still, there was a slightly encouraging note. The CNE promised to deliver by the middle of next week the rules on how to call for a referendum. In the scandalous draft that was leaked a couple of days ago it was written that the CNE was going to wait for a few weeks before issuing the rules. The CD simply said that you cannot invalidate a petition if you do not offer at the same time the format to make them. It seems that the logic hit home and the CNE decided not to look so brashly biased. It will surely look for other ways to slow down the signature collection process but at least we should know what are the new hurdles to jump.

The game is just starting.

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