Venezuela’s election commission closes offices nationwide, citing protest threats

CARACAS, Venezuela, Sept. 16 (UPI) — In response to opposition protests on Friday, Venezuela’s National Electoral Council, or CNE, shut down offices nationwide — citing threats to employees and facilities.

The Venezuelan opposition, consolidated in the Democratic Unity Roundtable, or MUD coalition, is holding protests on Friday related to its efforts to hold a recall referendum in which Venezuelans will be asked whether President Nicolas Maduro should be removed from office.

To hold the referendum, the opposition needs to collect signatures from 20 percent, or about 4 million, of Venezuela’s voting-eligible population within three days. The opposition has accused the CNE of stalling the process in favor of Maduro.

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The CNE on Wednesday began reviewing the process to possibly hold the next and final opposition petition drive. The review was to end on Friday, but the measure will have to resume on Monday.

“New threats against employees as well as against the facilities of the electoral power forced to suspend, this Friday, all activities at the headquarters of the electoral body,” the CNE said in a statement. “The National Electoral Council agreed to the measure after having known various calls for protests in the vicinity of the venues across the country, which have seen violence on several occasions, since April this year, when the MUD party requested its legitimacy as a mediator in an eventual referendum process.”

This is the third time the CNE has suspended activities in its branches due to threats of possible violence. The opposition recently held a protest in Caracas in which more than 1 million people participated.

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