Washington, D.C.—On October 20, Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) suspended the next step in the recall referendum process against President Nicolas Maduro, indefinitely placing a hold on a signature drive that had been set for October 26-28.
The CNE announcement represents a grave setback for democracy in Venezuela. The decision was based on the judicial process in lower jurisdiction courts in four different districts around the country which ruled simultaneously against the signature drive moving forward. However, the courts have no legal authority over the CNE, and the electoral authority is under no constitutional obligation to abide by these decisions.
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As WOLA (the Washington Office on Latin America) has noted, the people’s right to choose leaders and exercise control over them is a fundamental human right, and the CNE has a duty to ensure that Venezuelans have the opportunity to participate in a timely, well-organized recall referendum process in accordance with the Venezuelan constitution. Suspending the signature drive represents an alarming deviation from this duty.
The CNE’s announcement also contains a call for “national dialogue” as a mechanism to preserve peace and stability, a reference to the internationally-facilitated dialogue between the Venezuelan government and the opposition. This appears to present dialogue as an alternative to a recall referendum and thereby serves to delegitimize such talks. Dialogue is absolutely necessary in order for Venezuela to overcome a deepening political and economic crisis, but this process should be considered independent of the recall referendum process.
WOLA urges the CNE to reverse its suspension of the signature collection process in Venezuela.