Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Capriles Ignores CNE, Organizes Protests Calling for Full Recount

Venezuelan opposition candidate Henrique Capriles is milking his narrow margin of defeat in Sunday’s elections for all it’s worth, refusing to recognize the results and organizing demonstrations in an attack on Maduro’s political legitimacy.

Although Venezuela’s election authority has proclaimed Maduro the winner of Sunday’s presidential election, Capriles has yet to concede defeat and continues to demand a full recount of all ballots. The National Electoral Council (CNE) officially recognized Maduro as president-elect yesterday afternoon, prompting Capriles to call on supporters around the country to protest the CNE’s decision with a cacerolazo (pot-banging demonstration) last night.

So far the opposition leader has urged protestors to demonstrate peacefully, but this has not stopped some supporters from engaging in more confrontational protest methods. Reuters reports that hundreds of young demonstrators in the upscale Caracas neighborhood of Altamiras clashed with police yesterday afternoon/evening, and photos of the incident taken by Caracas-based journalist Girish Gupta show youths battling with riot police and setting up small, improvised barricades. Capriles has called for a larger march to be held today, inviting the “people of Caracas” and the surrounding area to join him in in a protest outside the CNE to pressure it into carrying out a full recount.

The election-monitoring body, meanwhile, appears to be having none of the opposition’s complaints. In a strongly-worded statement yesterday, CNE President Tibisay Lucena denied Capriles’ request and criticized him for putting the rule of law and the country’s democratic institutions in jeopardy. “Threats and intimidation are not the path to appeal the decisions of the CNE," Lucena said.

Maduro has also criticized Capriles’ calls for demonstrations, saying that his refusal amounts to golpismo and endorsement of a coup d’état. According to VTV, National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello announced that lawmakers in the United Socialist Party (PSUV) will today seek to open an investigation into Capriles “due to the violence generated in the country.”

Even if he believed that the overall vote count was tampered with, it is unclear whether Capriles’ demand for a full recount is necessary to prove this. The pro-Capriles Caracas Chronicles blog claims that a randomly-selected sample of 54% of all paper ballots cast on election night -- including votes from every voting center in the country -- is already in the hands of opposition election observers. If there is evidence of voting fraud, then, it will almost certainly surface with or without a full recount.


News Briefs
  • The Cuban government is understandably elated by Maduro’s win, as it effectively guarantees them at least five more years of subsidized oil from their South American ally. The AP reports that President Raul Castro was among the first to congratulate Maduro on the win, although analysts believe that his narrow lead was a signal to the Cuban leadership that they cannot reliably expect continued aid beyond Maduro’s first term.
  • The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Jose Miguel Insulza, expressed support for a full recount in Venezuela yesterday in a press release posted on the OAS website.
  • Despite rumors to the contrary and claims among the opposition that Nicolas Maduro had been sworn in yesterday in a rushed ceremony, Telesur reports that the official inauguration will be held on Friday, in a ceremony attended by several regional leaders including Uruguayan President Jose Mujica.
  • The Washington Post has an interesting op-ed by Viridiana Rios, one of the members of a team of Harvard University researchers who studied patterns in drug-related violence in Mexico from 2010 to 2012 using a specially-designed algorithm of Google searches. Among one of the team’s most interesting finds was that the presence of rival cartels in an area did not accurately predict violence, suggesting that traffickers frequently choose peaceful means of resolving business conflicts rather than opting for war.  As such, Rios argues that instead of military aid, the U.S. should be helping Mexico “craft a system of incentives, using arrests, sentencing and imprisonment, so that criminal organizations cannot find it profitable to kill.”
  • El Universal reports that Noe Ramirez, a former Mexican drug czar accused of accepting a bribe to hand over police information to a drug cartel, has been released from prison after a judge found that a key witness against him may have fabricated evidence.
  • On Sunday, Mexico’s Interior Ministry announced that it would be altering the terms its uses to describe criminal activity. The announcement is an attempt to discourage terms used by criminal groups which have crept into the public discourse, like levantón to describe a kidnapping or encobijados to describe the stashed body of a victim. The AP notes that some Mexican media outlets have poked fun at the announcement, seeing it as an attempt to sugarcoat the issue.
  • According to statistics released last week by the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration, the number of Haitians living in refugee camps following the January 2010 earthquake has dropped by 79 percent, although it is still staggeringly high at 81,350 households or 320,050 individuals.
  • Police in the Dominican Republic say that they have arrested seven drug traffickers, led by a former member of the navy and a current intelligence agent with the country’s National Department of Investigations, NoticiasSIN and AP report.
  • El Faro has an interview with Guatemalan Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz, in which she characterizes extraditing high-level criminals to the United States as a likely necessity, although she defends her country’s decision to try former dictator Rios Montt domestically for crimes against humanity.
  • The homicide rate in the Colombian capital city of Bogota has fallen 11 percent during the first three months of 2013 compared to the same period in 2012, according to local authorities. If this trend holds it could serve as strong supporting evidence in favor of a gun ban implemented by Mayor Gustavo Petro in February 2012. The policy has already been credited with contributing to a 27-year low in homicides.