CrisisWatch N°155


01 July 2016

Standoff between govt and opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) alliance continued amid worsening humanitarian and economic situation. National Electoral Council (CNE) 7 June invalidated almost one third of signatures presented by MUD in May in support of presidential recall referendum; some 1.3mn signatures remained, almost seven times number required to trigger next step of process. In further attempt to reduce number of valid signatures, CNE 8 June passed resolution allowing signatories to exclude themselves from list, amid reports of public employees being pressured to sign exclusion form. Ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) 13 June filed petition with Supreme Court (TSJ) asking for investigation into alleged fraud in signature collection process, in apparent bid to halt process altogether. Small number (300) of fingerprinting machines, many in remote locations, available for petition signatories to personally “validate” signatures 20-24 June meant most unable to do so. Tensions on the streets continued to rise with daily protests over food shortages and incidents of looting, including protests 13-14 June in eastern coastal city of Cumaná in which scores of businesses looted, three reportedly killed and over 400 arrested before order was restored. Organization of American States (OAS) Permanent Council 23 June held meeting to debate applicability of Inter-American Democratic Charter following late-May publication by OAS head Luis Almagro of 132-page report on deteriorating situation in Venezuela, though no decision was taken. However, Venezuela’s attempt to prevent debate was defeated. Earlier OAS Permanent Council 7 June, and General Assembly 15 June, reiterated support for UNASUR dialogue process launched late-May, but stressed it must be inclusive and effective; and emphasised need for Venezuela to observe “fair and timely implementation of constitutional mechanisms”, with fifteen countries joining even more forceful call to respond to Venezuela’s humanitarian and political crisis.