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Venezuela: opposition will hold primaries to select one presidential candidate

By Sol Maria Castro,

According to Democratic Coordinator spokesman Jesús Torrealba, the opposition will likely hold a primary on August 22 to select one candidate for an eventual presidential election. He said that the 40 political and civic associations which conform the Democratic Coordinator agreed to set the date after the recall referendum. In an AP interview, he added that the opposition has delayed electing one candidate to focus on the recall referendum. In addition, he said that the Democratic Coordinator would present a “governability plan” before August 15.

Opposition leader Enrique Mendoza Dismisses Poll

Opposition leader Enrique Mendoza dismissed the results of a poll by Washington-based Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Inc., which showed the gap narrowing between those who want to remove Chavez and those who want him to remain in power. According to the poll, which took place between June 12 and 17, 50% of likely voters said they would vote to remove Chavez from power, while 46% said they'll support him in the referendum.

TSJ candidates include drafter of the Law and CNE president.

195 candidates will be considered to fill the new 12 positions available in the new Supreme Court, in addition to the substitution of three current justices - Franklin Arriechi, who was dismissed by the National Assembly, and José Manuel Delgado and Rafael Pérez Perdomo who will retire later this year. Among the candidates nominated or self-nominated are government party MVR legislators Omar Mezza, who has been on a leave of absence from the National Assembly for over a year, and Luis Velásquez Alcaray, who drafted and modified the Supreme Court Law it so that it could be passed in record time. Other nominees include the military prosecutor in charge of the alleged paramilitary case, Colonel Eladio Aponte, former justice Carlos Escarrá, identified with the government, and National Electoral Board president, Francisco Carrasquero, who nominated himself. The designation will take place on August 13, two days before the presidential recall referendum. According to the new Law, there will be three sessions to designate the justices with the votes of the two thirds of the Assembly; if there are not enough votes, the justices will be appointed during the fourth session with a simple majority.

Democratic Coordinator asks the CNE to honor August 15th referendum date.

Democratic Coordinator representative Alberto Quiroz Corradi said that in a meeting with the electoral authorities, he asked that the August 15th date not be delayed, and expressed concern that the electoral registry’s close on July 10 would not provide sufficient time to process new voters and changes.

AN investigation of Fort Mara case concluded.

The Defense and Security Commission at the National Assembly led by MVR legislator Néstor Heredia approved with the pro-government votes the general conclusion and recommendations on the Fort Mara burning incident, according to which “the fire originated in the inside of the disciplinary cell with the human participation of those inside and without any external inherence.” As to the death of private Ciro Pedreáñez, the report concludes his death was imminent due to his burns. Opposition legislators, AD Daniela Parra and Edgar Zambrano voted negatively.

PDVSA requests extension to file financial report to the SEC.

José Rojas, Vice-president of Finances at PDVSA alleged “internal operational difficulties” to request a second extension to the SEC to present the industry’s financial report for 2003. According to Rojas, the difficulties would be a result of the oil strike of December 2002 which made it impossible to have accounting systems until June 2003. In addition, PDVSA said it would file no later than July 15th.

HRW director asks President Chávez to attend to their report.

The executive director of Human Rights Watch, HRW, José Miguel Vivanco, sent a letter to President Hugo Chávez, asking him “and the most reasonable members of his government” to seriously address the recommendations and issues the group raised in his report about Venezuela, and prevent “an unrecoverable damage.” In his letter, Vivanco reports he requested meetings with Vice-President Rangel and other members of the cabinet before traveling to Venezuela last month; the only Minister who accepted, cancelled the encounter a few hours before the scheduled meeting. Vivanco also denies the charges made against the organization and his person of representing the US government. He concluded that the offenses “deteriorate the credibility of the government before the international community.” He expressed his hope that the President will publicly disavow the Vice-president’s offensive remarks. Immediate reactions came from the Vice-president who said he will not address any statement coming from a mercenary, and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jesús Pérez, who qualified Vivanco’s statements as part of a media show.

· Updates on Presidential Recall Referendum 44 days away.

§ The PRR question: "Do you agree to nullify the popular mandate given through democratic and legitimate elections to the citizen Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías as president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela for the current presidential term?" The possible answers are, in the order established by the electoral authority, NO and YES.

§ The registry for new voters and residence changes will close July 10. CNE Director Sobella Mejía announced yesterday that at the end of April, the REP included 12,518,884 registered voters, (12,429,885 Venezuelans and 88,959 foreigners residing in the country for over 10 years.)

§ However, President Chávez announced last night in his new radio show, Patrolling with Chávez, that there were 3,521,743 new registered voters, who have also received their ID card in the government plan, Mission Identity. The plan also includes the nationalization of over 200,000 foreigners residing in the country.

§ The CNE board approved Wednesday the “Norms for the Installation of Electoral Stations and the Voting and Scrutiny acts of the Recall Referenda.” The new norms were approved unanimously except for the articles referring to fingerprint verification. The new Norms contemplate five people per station, 19,200 in total, which respond to the regional boards. Pending are the norms to regulate contingency plans in case the voting machines fail and the audit process to conduct at the end of the RR.

§ Instructions to CNE personnel will begin July 6 in Caracas, and July 12 in the province.

§ CNE President, Francisco Carrasquero and substitute director Carlos Aguilar will conform the special commission in charge of the Permanent Electoral Registry, REP, purge ordered by the Constitutional Chamber at the TSJ.

§ Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jesús Pérez, announced that those Venezuelans residing abroad who have renounced their nationality will not be able to vote on August 15. Although he recognized there have been some problems that have to do with the conditions each Venezuelan has to meet in the country where he resides, he guaranteed the Ministry is following the guidelines given by the CNE to update the REP in all consulates.

§ The Carter Center’s Jennifer McCoy said she will meet with the CNE observation committee this Friday. From informal meetings held with several directors, they were informed the CNE is preparing the invitations for the international observers. According to the Norms for International Observation approved last week, the international observers will receive their credentials only on August 11 and 13.

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