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Venezuela: “The recall referendum belongs to the people, as does the freedom to demand it”, says OAS Secretary General

  September 23, 2016

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, today said the National Electoral Council (CNE, for its initials in Spanish) of Venezuela is “obstructing a constitutional right and acting with a clear political bias” in announcing the rules and the timetable that will govern the process for the recall referendum sought by the opposition, and demanded that the referendum be held in 2016.

“The recall referendum belongs to the people, and it is up to the CNE to ensure the guarantees for the free expression of the people, instead of curtailing and trying to annul their rights,” stressed the Secretary General.

Luis Almagro said the dates announced by the CNE are “one more maneuver to delay the process and to impede the holding of the recall referendum this year. Constitutional deadlines cannot continue to be violated, the will of the voters cannot continue to be manipulated, it is completely unacceptable that there are attempts to cut civil and political rights through biased interpretations by the CNE.”

For the OAS leader, moreover, the CNE “arbitrarily and with demonstrated intention changed the rules of the game” by determining that the collection of 20 percent of the signatures needed to convene the referendum must be done at the state level, rather than at the national level: "Electoral bodies do not exist to undermine democracy and act in the interests of the current government; their nature and obligation is to serve as vehicles for the strengthening of the will of the people,” he reaffirmed.

In effect, during the recall referendum against the former President Chávez in 2004, under the same law, the collection of 20 percent of the signatures was carried out at the national level, which makes complete sense, given that the office in question is the President of the Republic, a national office.

“The President of the CNE Tibisay Lucena and its rectors Sandra Oblitas, Socorro Elizabeth Hernández and Tania D´Amelio are showing a high level of undue technical incompetence regarding the responsibilities they must meet. Their role is to ensure that 100 percent of the Venezuelan electoral registry is able to sign, if they desire to do so, not to certify the elimination of the rights of the people,” added Almagro.

“It is urgent that the required number of machines in all districts are present in order to meet the needs of the more than 19 million Venezuelan voters and carry out a fair and proper distribution of districts that does not blatantly favor the position of the government. This decision is unconstitutional, violates the very spirit of the recall referendum and aims to sweep away the last glimmer of democratic hope for Venezuela,” he explained.

The General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS) reiterates the urgent call for respect for democratic institutions and rights, while recalling once more what is established in Article 1 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter: “The peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it.” "The right is that of the peoples and the obligation to ensure that right is that of the government," said Almagro.

There is an urgent need today for international observation to avoid further violations of that right.

Reference: E-099/16