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Reactions to the CNE decision in Venezuela

By Sol Maria Castro,

Ezequiel Zamora (CNE Vice-president): "it makes the activation of a recall referendum almost illusory…The norms are not being respected. The signatures have been rejected (and) the citizens are being forced to prove they signed (the petitions)… I consider that what is happening at the CNE tonight is very serious.”

Sobella Mejía (CNE director): “The rules of the game were established and it is not possible that at the end of this journey, in the middle of the signature verification process, new elements that go against the constitutional rights of the Venezuelans are established.” She reminded reporters the process took place in the presence of witnesses of the interested parties to avoid irregularities as well as with the presence of CNE appointed observers to guarantee the fulfillment of the rules.

The opposition umbrella organization Democratic Coordinator (CD) in a press conference late Tuesday night: "Today, February 24, 2004, will be remembered in history as the day of swindle. The pro-government members of the CNE have performed a very serious fraud against the Constitution, against the law and against their own rules, but the most serious of all, against the sovereignty of the people."

Carlos Delgado Chapellín (member of the Political Participation Council, and former president of the CNE): “This is a huge falsehood, it is an illegal and unconstitutional act, it lacks legitimacy. The position of the pro-government majority in the CNE is to violate the laws, since that was not included in the norms…the rule of law in this country is breaking apart.”

Manuel Cova (Secretary General of the Venezuelan Workers’ Confederation): “The decision made by the CNE compromises its impartiality in the process of signature revision.”

Albis Muñoz (FEDECAMARAS president): “The government is out of the rule of law… “

Jorge Botti (Consecomercio president): “The veil of autocracy has begun to extend over Venezuela,” adding the news has a negative effect over investors’ trust in the country.

Lope Mendoza (leader of Conindustria): “The CNE directors have kicked the democratic table,” consequently, the OAS Secretary General should come.

Hermann Escarrá (Constitution drafter and former ally to President Chávez): It is no secret that the three pro-government directors are playing the gigantic government maneuver to impede, any way they can, the recall referendum.”

Eduardo Fernández (President of the political party COPEI): “We want to vote and the government is obstructing the free right to democratically give our opinion… They aligned with President Chávez’s wishes, expressed by Minister Diosdado Cabello, when he publicly asked to eliminate 2 million signatures.”

Andrés Velásquez (Causa R legislator): “The people were expressly convoked to sign and not to fill out their data… the government disregards the constitutional principle that indicates the sovereign power resides in the people and is exercised through the vote.”

Julio César Borges (Primero Justicia legislator): “If the electoral body does not support the random sampling, it would be again placing hurdles to the Venezuelan people. The directors who voted to send the assisted or uniform forms to repair incurred in electoral fraud, since according to Article 72 of the National Constitution, it is the electoral body the one which should facilitate the popular elections and political rights.”

Jorge Rodríguez (CNE director): “The attitude of the recall actors makes no difference to the CNE. It is not a function of the electoral power to make the referendum tangible, but to have the popular will expressed.”

José Vicente Rangel (Vice-president): “The decision of the National Electoral Council is impeccable from the juridical and procedural point of view.”

There was a high level meeting at the Miraflores Palace with governors, mayors, ministers and members of the Ayacucho Command.

Street protests broke out spontaneously in different neighborhoods in Caracas with people burning tires to block traffic in freeways and main avenues.

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