Electoral Council Suspends Recall Referendum in Venezuela

By Matthew Schaller
Staff Writer

On the 21st of October, the Venezuelan opposition’s aim of ousting their elected leader was further undermined by the electoral council, which suspended the campaign to hold a recall referendum against President Nicolas Maduro.
The council said in a statement that they have “sent instructions to postpone the process of signature gathering until new judicial instructions are known.” This was after several states reported fraud in the preliminary petition held in June.
According to BBC News, eight opposition leaders have been denied the right to leave the country.
What’s notable about this move from the opposition is that if this referendum were to go through, Mr. Maduro would be forced to comply with the constitution and compete in a presidential election that many polls say he is likely to lose.
Opposition lawmakers in the National Assembly would respond to this act the following week by voting to put Maduro on political trial. The vote was only a symbolic gesture, aimed at renewing pressure on the embattled president, as any measure would likely be turned down by the courts.
“Let him respond for the actions that have destroyed, broken, denied the right to choose in a democracy,” Julio Borges, the leader of the opposition bloc in the Assembly, said after the vote was passed.
Responding to these actions against both sides of the opposition, Maduro chose to instead place the blame on President Obama for Venezuela’s economic and political woes.
“These attacks from the right are an attack by Obama because he is close to leaving,” Maduro said.
According to Reuters, Maduro was returning from a tour of notable oil-producing countries, including meetings with the United Nations Secretary General-designate Antonio Guterres and the pope. He summoned his cabinet to the presidential palace in order to discuss the recent actions by the opposition.
These actions were overshadowed by protests that bare striking similarities to those which happened two years ago. Clashes occurred in several cities and towns outside the capital of Venezuela in recent days.
208 arrests were carried out across the nation, although the number is expected to rise, according to human rights group Penal Forum.
Following these actions from both sides of the conflict, leaders of the opposition and heads of state have agreed to peace talks being mediated by the Vatican.
After months of former international leaders seeking to jumpstart possible reconciliation talks, CNN reports that Argentinian Archbishop Monsignor Emir Paul Tscherring will moderate the dialogue.
Speaking to journalists, Tscherring said that he hopes the dialogue will “look for agreeance, to create an atmosphere of trust, overcome disagreement, and promote a mechanism that guarantees peaceful co-existence.”
Nicolas Maduro, the heir apparent to the regime of Hugo Chavez, has presided over the worst economic crisis in recent memory. Despite elections for seats in the National Assembly benefiting the opposition this past December, any action undertaken is seen fruitless as the courts are directly controlled by Maduro’s leftist government.
No matter the uncertainty taking hold in Venezuela, one thing is certain: the army’s support of their leader. Defense Minister Vladimir Lopez penned a declaration stating that the aim of the opposition is to overthrow Maduro and that the army will show “unconditional loyalty and unbreakable commitment.”

Matthew Schaller

MATTHEW SCHALLER is a junior Diplomacy and International Relations major with a minor in Russian and Eastern European Studies. His academic interests include Russian politics, counterterrorism, and international security. After graduating he plans to travel the world and find a career in intelligence or humanitarian aid.

Contact Matt at matthew.schaller@student.shu.edu.

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