Skip to comments.Venezuela's opposition begins massive petition drive to seek Chavez's ouster
Posted on 02/02/2003 8:39:35 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
CARACAS, Venezuela - Venezuela's opposition launched a mass petition drive Sunday, asking citizens to sign their names in support of various measures renouncing the government of President Hugo Chavez and seeking his ouster.
Thousands of people lined up from early hours of the morning to add their names to the lists; organizers hope as many as 5 million will visit the hundreds of sign-up tables nationwide before the day's end.
"We're looking for the fastest way to get out of this crisis," said Freddy Hurtado, 56, an advertising agent who complained of poor business before the opposition launched a two-month strike in December and even worse after. "Given that the president is the cause of the crisis, we're going to get rid of him with our signatures," Hurtado said.
The opposition hopes one petition in particular - a constitutional amendment to reduce Chavez's term from six to four years - will succeed in paving the way for general elections later this year.
Under the constitution, organizers need signatures from 15 percent, or about 1.8 million, of the country's 12 million registered voters.
The amendment was one of two proposals made by Nobel Peace Prize winner and former President Jimmy Carter. The other is to hold a recall referendum on Chavez's rule halfway through his six-year term, in August. The opposition also is collecting signatures for this initiative.
Chavez has indicated he is open to both solutions, but Foreign Minister Roy Chaderton said the government has no interest in "doing away with itself."
Opposition leaders, who called the national strike Dec. 2 to pressure Chavez into stepping down or accepting a referendum on his rule, said they would ease the work stoppage this week to protect businesses against bankruptcy.
"We are expecting a gradual return to activities in the various sectors that make up the country," opposition negotiator Manuel Cova said. The protest will continue in the vital oil industry, where production has been cut by two-thirds.
Oil makes up a third of Venezuela's economy and provides half of government income. The strike has cost at least $4 billion in lost oil revenues alone by government estimates. The Santander Central Hispano investment bank has warned that the economy could shrink by as much as 40 percent in the first quarter of 2003.
Most small businesses never joined the strike, and many more companies have opened their doors in recent days. Those that remained closed, including factories, malls and franchise restaurants, are urged to open this week for restricted hours, strike leaders said.
Venezuelans gather around a car to sign a symbolic vote against Venezuela`s President Hugo Chavez in Caracas, February 2, 2003. Hundreds of thousands of foes of Chavez signing on Sunday to petition for an early election and a constitutional amendment to shorten the president`s term in office. REUTERS/Chico Sanchez
Vicenta Sanchez, 85, signs a symbolic vote against Venezuela`s President Hugo Chavez in Caracas, February 2, 2003. Hundreds of thousands of foes of Chavez signed petitions for early elections and a constitutional amendment to shorten Chavez' term in office. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
And MORE - REUTERS/Jorge Silva
Venezuelans line up to sign a symbolic vote against Venezuela`s President Hugo Chavez in Caracas, February 2, 2003. Hundreds of thousands of foes of Chavez signed petitions for an early election and a constitutional amendment to shorten Chavez' term in office. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
AND MORE Venezuelan women sign a symbolic vote against Venezuela`s President Hugo Chavez in Caracas, February 2, 2003. Hundreds of thousands of foes of Chavez signed a petition for an early elections and a constitutional amendment to shorten the Chavez' term in office. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
And MORE - REUTERS/Jorge Silva
But this is Reuters isn't it? Professional lying.
Is there a petition planned by these same people to ask Chavez to voluntarily lower the price of oil at below world prices for the benefit of their sponsors?
They would like to know that they did something to "earn" their green cards by the time they they get to the US.
"The pen is our weapon," said Julio Borges of the Justice First opposition party. "Today demonstrates that the struggle hasn't ended. It didn't end with the strike." The most popular initiative is a constitutional amendment cutting Chavez's term from six to four years. It needs the support of 15 percent of the electorate - or about 1.8 million signatures - and would clear the way for general elections later this year.
A nonbinding referendum on Chavez's rule had originally been scheduled for Sunday after another petition with 2 million signatures was accepted by the National Electoral Council. Business, labor and opposition political groups called the strike beginning Dec. 2 to pressure Chavez into accepting the vote but the Supreme Court suspended the referendum because of a technicality. "We feel that they have taken our freedom to express ourselves," said Marisela Gaye, an insurance worker who was waiting earlier in the day to sign in Plaza Francia in eastern Caracas. ***
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