Recall Referendum on Maduro Moves to Next Phase in spite of “Irregularities”
Venezuelans are hoping for the political process to follow the constitution, says Jeanette Charles of Venezuela Analysis
SHARMINI PERIES, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore.
On Thursday, Venezuela’s national electoral council finally announced the dates during which the opposition may collect signatures for a recall petition on President Nicolas [Maduro]. The dates will be October 26th, 27th, and 28th, during which time at least 20% of the registered voters have to sign the petition. If that process is successful, the electoral council says the referendum itself will take place sometime in February of 2017. Leaders of Venezuela’s opposition coalition, the United Democratic Round Table, expressed anger and dismay at the announcement because this means if President Maduro is recalled he will be replaced by Vice President for the last two years of his presidential term. If Maduro were recalled before January 10th, a new January election will be held and the opposition would have a chance at getting one of their candidates to become president.
Joining us from Caracas to talk about all of this is Jeanette Charles. Jeanette works with English language media outlet, VenezuelaAnalysis.com and is currently a student at the Boliviarian University in Caracas. She also works with the US based Latin American solidarity organization, Witness for Peace. Thanks so much for joining us Jeanette.
JEANETTE CHARLES: Thank you so much for having me again Sharmini.
PERIES: So Jeanette, leaders of the opposition are no doubt angry about all of this. How do you think they’re going to react?
CHARLES: Well I think after this week’s announcement, some other things that have come out just in today’s and the last couple of days’ newspapers is some of the official statements that the Mood or the opposition bloc as well as the PSUV or the socialist party bloc have responded with. One of the reason which the Mood has responded with saying that they consider the CNE’s or the electoral council’s declaration a violation of the constitution and they quote warn that there will be massive energetic nationwide protests. On Monday they organized some sort of gathering where they’re going to be placing together a roadmap so that their supporters know what actions to take next.
PERIES: Jeanette this is one thing that the constitution of Venezuela clearly spells out in terms of rules and regulations regarding recall referendums. Is this a violation of the constitution?
CHARLES: No it’s clearly not. Actually what’s been really interesting is that some of the conversations I’ve had with grassroots movement leaders is that the opposition historical has rejected the recall referendum so during the 1999 constitutional assembly process leaders such a Ramos Allup who is now the opposition head of the national assembly, opposed having the recall referendum included in the constitution because it essentially provides an opportunity for the people to directly hold their elected officials accountable.
PERIES: So let’s get a little bit into how the OAS and the US State Department is responding to all of this. They have already weighed in saying that the recall process should be held right away, siding with the opposition here. Where is the OAS at with this?
CHARLES: Like you said, the OAS and the US State Department have issued their statements saying that they would like the recall referendum to happen this year. Though even in our last interview we talked a little bit about how that’s logistically impossible. And Jorge Rodriguez who is part of the United Socialist Party commission for verifying the signatures even talked about how that won’t happen. One of the things in which that most media have not covered is that the opposition has presented just the 1% of signatures of many irregularities and fraud. There are a lot of numbers that point to that.
The CNE and I’m looking here at my notes because I can’t remember all the numbers but these were published today in the Correio [inaud.] which is a newspaper here in Venezuela but that 10,995 dead people signed the first round of the support for the referendum. There was one person who was apparently born in 1898. 9,333 people with unofficial ID numbers singed and 3,000 were underage voters. Out of the 1.3 million signatures that presented for the first phase recall referendum. More than 800,000 people did not verify their signatures which is very uncommon in Venezuela where electoral processes have very much determined one of the main access points for people’s democratic participation.
PERIES: Now Jeanette why cannot the referendum be held prior to this date? After all the opposition had called for it back in May of this year.
CHARLES: The official timeline for the opposition to have had the referendum organized by this year would’ve been turning in the 1% electoral votes I think some time in the first quarter of this year. So May is way beyond the first quarter. It’s halfway through the second quarter of the year and makes it unfeasible according to constitutional guidelines.
PERIES: Now a few weeks ago there were very peaceful demonstrations on the part of the opposition as well as those who are supporting President Maduro, the chavistas, and there were huge protests and they were fairly peaceful. Now the opposition is calling for more demonstrations to resist this decision on the part of the CNE. Do you think that will have an impact and will they be as large and will they feel the opposition’s side here?
CHARLES: I think most people are hoping that the protests remain largely peaceful. I think there is definitely a history that proves that the opposition has gone towards violent tactics to make a point and try to get to what they want. I think however, the general sense that I get just being here in Venezuela is that most Venezuelans are just, they’re betting on and hoping for the legality to function. So just making sure that the constitutional articles are upheld, making sure the institutions are functioning and I think most folks are pointing towards the CNE as a compass for this process and not trying to engage in violent activities.
PERIES: And if the opposition is successful in collecting the 20% of the signatures, and the recall referendum is held and President Maduro fails to win that election, who will take his place and what do we know about the current Vice President?
CHARLES: So just to be clear too one of the things that the CNE included not just that it’s 20% nationwide but also 20% state by state. So they have 23 states in Venezuela and if it’s 20% nationwide it’s 4 million voters. If it’s state by state, that means that they have to reach a considerably higher number which most folks point to be very unlikely. In the event that an election process does happen, the election would have to win more than 7.5 million votes which is what Maduro won with in 2013 in his presidential election.
The current Vice President is Aristóbulo Istúriz. He was the former governor of Anzoátegui and has a history of political credentials that makes him more than qualified to take on the presidency. But I think it’s more unlikely that would happen. But if it were to happen he definitely has a history within not just the Socialist Party bloc but then also with the popular movement in terms of upholding the Bolivarian process in prioritizing social programs, social services, and equity and inclusion which has been primarily at the forefront of this historic process in Venezuela.
PERIES: I thank you so much for joining us and as usual you were very informative.
CHARLES: Thank you so much Sharmini. Always a pleasure.
PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.
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