Friday, October 21, 2016

Venezuela's #RR postponed indefinitely

Venezuela's National Electoral Council (CNE) has postponed a signature collection effort aimed at demanding a presidential recall referendum. Authorities cited four injunctions by provincial courts yesterday alleging fraud in the opposition-led effort, reports Efecto Cocoyuo. The process is suspended until further notice.
The news incensed the opposition, which is expected to respond later today, reports Reuters. MUD opposition coalition executive secretary Jesús Chúo Torrealba promised it would be "convincing and serene," however, notes Efecto Cocuyo.
(Follow the play-by-play at Prodavinci's live blog.)
Yesterday's decision was unexpected, reports the Wall Street Journal. The injunctions were emitted by criminal court justices, and issued just hours after four ruling-party governors lodged complaints of fraud in relation to an earlier signature drive required for the referendum.
The CNE's decision also appears to invalidate it's own August validation of the signatures in the first drive, reports the Associated Press.
Already next week's signature drive, which needed to have the support of 20 percent of the electorate in each state, was taking place under difficult conditions (few polling places and restricted to three days). And even if successful, the recall referendum would not have taken place until next year, which means that if it successfully ousted President Nicolás Maduro, it would not trigger a new election for his successor.
Polls suggest the government would lose the referendum vote by a wide margin, reports the Guardian.
Nonetheless, the decision leaves the opposition with little legal recourse to fight the government. And seems to extinguish any hope that Maduro could be legally removed from power, reports the Wall Street Journal in a later article.
The move comes as the opposition dominated National Assembly is increasingly sidelined -- such as a Supreme Court decision last week which permitted the magistrates to approve the national budget instead of congress. (See Oct. 13's post.) Earlier this week the government also postponed state governor elections, slated for December, until next year. (See Wednesday's briefs.)
Separately several MUD leaders, includying Chúo Torrealba and Henrique Capriles were forbidden to leave the country by a judicial order, also yesterday, reports Efecto Cocuyo. The document with the prohibition, published by the opposition leaders, only included a list of names and did not give reasons for the ban, reports Reuters.
Very interesting post on Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights on a new phrase gaining ground in the midst of Venezuela's economic and political crisis: “I am Chavista, not Madurista." The piece focuses on the collectives, radical groups in Caracas that pledge allegiance to the legacy of the late Hugo Chávez. The important take away is that even blocks with unswerving Chavista loyalty are questioning the current government.
News Briefs
  • Hopes for finding people disappeared in Hurricane Matthew alive are dimming in Haiti, reports the Associated Press. In the meantime, local officials in the hardest hit southwest area say they are lack the equipment and resources to help families search through the wreckage. The official death toll stands at 546 dead and 128 missing, but many believe that number doesn't take into account many isolated areas. In the meantime, others accuse some townships of inflating numbers of dead and disappeared in order to receive aid priority.
  • Eight BHP Billiton employees face criminal charges over the collapse of the Samarco tailings dam in Brazil's Minas Gerais last year. Brazilian prosecutors on Thursday charged 26 people, 21 for qualified homicide, for their alleged roles in the disaster, reports the Guardian.
  • More on Braços Abertos, this time from the Conversation. Luís Fernando Tófoli explains how São Paulo’s incoming mayor has promised to shut down the innovative social-care program, and will instead focus on abstinence-based programs for the city's notorious Cracolândia. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • The majority of migrant families facing deportation from the U.S. -- mostly from Central America -- have no legal representation. And that means they're more likely to be subjected to faster proceedings and to be deported, reports the Guardian.
  • Mexico's U.S. sponsored immigration crackdown has pushed Central American migrants to use more perilous routes through the country, and has led to a record level of health problems. "Two-thirds of migrants interviewed at shelters across the country reported suffering at least one violent attack – such as assault, rape or kidnapping – during their journey, according to a survey conducted by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)," reports the Guardian.
  • The Colombian government's proposed tax reform promises to be a difficult battle in the wake of a lost plebiscite on a peace accord with the FARC, reports the Financial Times. "At stake in the tax overhaul is the vaunted investment grade credit rating of Latin America’s fourth biggest economy; the country’s ability to implement an eventually revivified peace deal with rebel leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or Farc; and Mr Santos’ legacy." (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • This weekend's municipal elections in the Chilean city of Valparaiso will pit a new "citizens movement" against traditional political coalitions. The race is of relevance in a country where disgust with the political elite is high, after a string of corruption scandals, and voter turnout in upcoming national elections is expected to hit an all time low, reports the Guardian.

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