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Venezuelan electoral body suspended referendum drive

Venezuelan electoral body suspended referendum driveVenezuela's National Electoral Council (CNE) announced late Thursday evening that it would postpone the nationwide signature collection to trigger a presidential recall referendum scheduled for next week after five lower state courts run by government loyalists halted the signature collection in their states, alleging fraud.

In a statement, the CNE said it was notified by the state courts of their decisions and that this results in the shutdown of the next step to activate the referendum, which consisted of gathering the support of 20% of the 19 million voters registered on electoral register scheduled to take place October 26, 27 and 28.

"These decisions have resulted in the stoppage -- until further court order -- of the process of collecting 20% of the manifestations of will, which was scheduled for 26, 27 and 28 October," said the CNE.

Earlier, news that the regional courts of Aragua, Carabobo, Bolívar, Apure and Monagas states annulled the results of the first stage of requirements to activate the recall, which consisted of gathering the support of 1% of spread registered on the electoral register, for alleged fraud.

The Electoral Council said in its note that "attachment to the constitutional framework, the CNE abide by the measures ordered by the courts and has issued instructions to postpone the collection process until further judicial investigation."

The government of Maduro has challenged the recall, which is enshrined in the Venezuelan Constitution, in every possible way and instance, often resorting to violating that same Constitution, according to the opposition. Maduro’s popularity oscillates between 10% and 22% and he was widely expected to be recalled.
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