Sun, Jun 26, 2016 - Page 7 News List

Maduro recall petition vote passes threshold

AFP, CARACAS and MARACAY, Venezuela

People shout slogans against the government after the closure of the validation centers of the Venezuelan National Electoral Council in Caracas on Friday.

Photo: EPA

Opposition leaders in Venezuela on Friday said they have finished the process of authenticating signatures on a petition to recall Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, and have enough to hold a referendum on removing him.

“The number of signatures has clearly exceeded the minimum needed,” said Vicente Bello, coordinator for the referendum effort.

Government election authorities now have 20 days to review and affirm that finding.

Opponents of the regime finished giving their fingerprints to electoral authorities earlier on Friday, wrapping up a key stage in their drive for a referendum to remove Maduro.

Already used to lining up for hours to buy food in an economic crisis, this week, they lined up at electoral offices for a sometime frustrating process.

Officials took their electronic fingerprints to authenticate signatures on a petition calling for a recall referendum. That is just one stage in a months-long bureaucratic procedure.

One voter in the northern city of Maracay, civil servant Felix Rodriguez, skipped work to come and give his signature.

He has no flour, milk or meat in his kitchen. His old truck is broken down and there are no spare parts available.

“Prices are going up every day, on top of the shortages,” he said. “Whether you have money or not, you’ve got problems.”

In Maracay, the electoral office opened late, due to electricity cuts.

The line stretched for several blocks in the 30oC heat. Rodriguez had to rush back to the office.

“I took a risk by leaving work,” he said.

In the end, he said angrily: “I won’t be able to validate my signature.”

Friday was the fifth and last day of the fingerprinting process, which could make or break the bid to hold a recall vote on Maduro.

The opposition MUD coalition has accused the government of sabotaging the process through delays, obstacles and veiled threats to suspend the process.

Of the 1.3 million signatures recorded by the electoral board in the initial petition, at least 200,000 must be authenticated to pass to the next phase, with a minimum amount required in every state.

Opposition lawmaker Delsa Solorzano said 326,000 fingerprints have already been submitted overall. These have yet to be validated by the National Electoral Council.

It said it will do so by July 26.

The next step will require the collection of 4 million more signatures to call a full referendum.

The opposition is rushing to complete the recall process by Jan. 10, the cutoff date to trigger new elections.

After that cutoff date, a successful recall vote would simply pass power to Maduro’s hand-picked vice president.

Maduro vowed there would be no referendum this year.

“If there is one, we will go and win it. If there isn’t, political life in this country will go on,” he said.

And on Friday, during a military ceremony in Caracas, Maduro railed against those favoring the referendum — particularly Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States.

The beleaguered Maduro blasted “the vulgar, illegal and immoral interventionism” that he said was being carried out against the South American country, after Almagro this week presided over meetings about the crisis in Venezuela and voiced support for efforts to remove him.

Venezuela is grappling with an economic crisis sparked by the plunge in prices for its crucial oil exports.

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