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Venezuela: Updates on Verification Process of Recall Referendum Petitions after 104 days.

By Sol Maria Castro,

ARTICLE 31: The National Electoral Council will publish in at least, one printed national medium the results of the process of validation to which Numeral 3, Article 28 refers, indicating the numbers of the identity cards of the referendum petitioners. In a five continuous day period following the publication, the signatory who was rejected may go to the National Electoral Council personally, to repair any material error in which the Electoral Administration may have incurred during the verification of his data. Otherwise, the rejection will remain firm. Likewise, the elector who alleges he did not sign the form, may go to the National Electoral Council to requests his immediate exclusion from the total of signatures. In both cases, the National Electoral Council will publish the format of the communications through which the electors will make their requests.

From the Referendum Norms passed by the National Electoral Council on September 25, 2003

§ The conciliatory meeting convoked by the Electoral Chamber for Thursday morning was only attended by members of the opposition umbrella Democratic Coordinator. Both the OAS and Carter Center representatives excused themselves for not being in Caracas, and the CNE and government representatives declared they did not recognize the legality of the Chamber to know of the case. MVR legislator William Lara said, “the only legitimate meeting to discuss the repair procedure is the one the CNE invited us to for Friday at 11 am.” The CNE legal advisor, Andrés Brito read a press note in which the directorate states they only comply with the Constitutional Chamber’s decision of March 23.

§ An accidental Constitutional Chamber sentenced yesterday in favor of the appeal introduced by Ismael Garcia, coordinator of the pro-government Ayacucho Command, requesting the Chamber to know of the electoral case. The sentence was voted favorably by three of the five justices, and Juan Vicente Badell substituting for Antonio Garcia Garcia; Pedro Rondón Haab abstained.

§ The National Assembly will debate this Thursday sending the Constitutional Chamber a communication requesting Alternate Director Miriam Kornblith be dismissed as Vice-president Ezequiel Zamora’s substitute. Kornblith is accused of “belonging to civic association Súmate and being openly in favor of the opposition,” according to majority leader, Cilia Flores. Also, Thursday, a group appeared at the TSJ to make the same request with the same arguments. According to the Suffrage Law, Vice-president Zamora’s medical leave should be covered by his first substitute, in this case, Miriam Kornblith. On Wednesday, Kornblith submitted a letter to the CNE president asking for her incorporation to the directorate.

Situation report as of today, April 1, 2004:

· Tortured: Fourteen cases have been documented victims of torture: “electric shocks, beatings, cold water showers, insecticide spray in mouths, feces and hair eating, rape, burns, humiliations, food and water deprivation, kidnapping, etc.

· Disappeared: There are 7 people listed as disappeared: Omar Arturo Morales (28); Juan José Pérez (27); Juan Ernesto Sánchez (37); Andrés Bastidas Guedes (32); José Luis Rodríguez (33); Eduardo José Miranda (30) and Julio César Gómez (34), “people that right now no one knows where they are in the worst fashion of the gorilla dictatorships of the South Cone.”

· Fatalities: 17 people dead (15 confirmed names and location, 11 in Caracas [Alberto Aumaidre, (65), Neusi Rodríguez Martínez (28), José Guevara Reyes (45) Bruno Biella (66), Yurmi Suárez (21), William José Alvarez ( 22), Argenis Duarte (54), Pedro Sánchez (47), Dictor Dimas (31), José Luis Ricaurte (39 ), Juan Carlos Urbano Lugo (25 )], and 4 in the countryside (Miranda (José Manuel Vilas (41), Carabobo (Pedro José Sánchez Robles (32), and Zulia (Juan Carlos Zambrano (28) and Eva Carrizo (50) States).

· Arrested: 10 people remain incarcerated in Caracas, six were released yesterday (Rodrigo Alegrett (21), José Rafael Peralta (21), Heber Prada (21), Angel Daviott (26), José Merlo Rojas (26) and David Amundarain (19)) when State Prosecutor No. 58 Angela Casado ruled there was no evidence to charge them, closing the case. The other ten people arrested in Caracas are: Johan Romero, Chilean Andrés Julia (22), Miguel Montes (La Planta), Luis Pérez Amoroso, Santiago Monteverde (Vice-president of the Caracas Stock Market) and Pedro Vásquez (DISIP Headquarters), and Carlos Melo (CD Street Action Coordinator), Adán Lozano, Jorge López and Oscar Alejandro Camaño (El Rodeo). 417 people were arrested nationwide between February 27 and March 5.

· Warrant for arrest: An arrest warrant in effect against Baruta Municipality Mayor, Henrique Capriles Radonsky, was annulled today by the Supreme Court in its Penal Chamber, and his case was reassigned to a different court. Capriles Radonsky faces charges presumably for his performance during the events of April 12, 2002 at the Cuban Embassy in his municipality. Three more unnamed people are under investigation for the same events.

· Raid: The home of a retired Navy Captain was raided this Thursday morning on the presumption that illegal weapons were stored in his home. DISIP officers, in 8 official vehicles, entered the residential complex where Captain José Benítez, former military attaché to Brazil, lives in San Antonio, Miranda State, disarmed the complex watchman (weapon and communication radio) and took Captain Benitez’s pistol, a revolver and a rifle, all with legal permits and authorized by DARFA. (Armed Force Weapon Division).

· Government retaliations against PRR petition signatories:

o 8 soldiers were burnt alive in their punishment cell for signing the PRR in Fort Mara, Zulia State.

o Antonio Suárez, president of FEDEUNEP, the public employee union, filed a document at the Ombudsman’s Office, with 30 cases of public servants fired. He also said that some workers have been transferred, threatened and suffered the violation of their freedom to participate in trade-union activities. Also, representatives of the subway company Metro de Caracas visited the Ombudsman's Office to denounce dismissals of managers and department bosses who signed the recall petition.

o During his interpellation at the Foreign Affairs Commission at the National Assembly, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jesús Pérez, claimed he is determined to re-structure the Ministry given the fact many directors and ambassadors signed the PRR petition. He argued the “personnel not in agreement with the government policies, have to be removed.”

· The Human Rights Center at Universidad Católica Andrés Bello has opened a registry of denounces to record all those threats, lay-offs and transfers workers have been subjected to for having signed in any of the petitions for recall referenda (opposition or pro-government followers). The denounces, identified and documented will be submitted to the CNE, the Attorney General’s Office, the Labor General Inspector, and the OAS. Over 7,600 workers have been either fired, transferred or threatened to be fired for signing the presidential recall referendum petition. Others have reported their ID card, passport, or tax clearance has been denied for the same reason.

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