Students, teachers, employees, and retirees of the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) demanded the resignation of rector Cecilia García Arocha after the executive board election of the oldest university in Venezuela was suspended with inexcusable logistic arguments and mistakes.
The election was to be held Friday, May 26, after a long wait of 15 years. There was great expectation within the UCV community about the process of electing new authorities to replace the existing executive board led by right winger García Arocha. When it was announced that the process had been postponed for June 9, the UCV community insisted that there had been sabotage, and students stormed a meeting of UCV authorities and demanded the resignation of the rector.
From the early hours of Friday, students, graduates, retirees, professors, and employees of the UCV started gathering on the campus, coming from different parts of Venezuela, in order to vote to elect the new rector, vice rectors, and members of the university council and faculty councils. However, time passed and the process did not start in most facilities. In the afternoon the decision to suspend the election was announced by the electoral board, alleging that some ballots and electoral material were damaged in the recent rains and were unusable.
#EleccionesUCV2023 Presidente de la @ComisionElectoralUCV, profesor Carlos Martín, anuncia que la elección en la #UCV fue diferida y se realizará el viernes 9 de junio. Explicó que se realizará una investigación para dar con las fallas ocurridas en la jornada de este #26May pic.twitter.com/cpeZybsET1
— UCV Noticias (@UCV_Noticias) May 26, 2023
The UCV electoral board had opted for an expensive manual voting system that required special ballots that were to be processed by optical readers owned by the university. The process costs about $30,000 according to journalist Eugenio Martínez, or about $50,000 according to Venancio Sánchez, a member of the UCV transport union, who further complained that the National Electoral Council (CNE) had offered to carry out an automated process costing only $15,000 but that offer had been rejected by the electoral board.
The UCV electoral board preference for a manual voting system, which is more expensive and requires more logistics, was apparently based on political reasons rather than technical criteria. Many analysts have compared the UCV fiasco to the absurd position taken by right-wing opposition figures ahead of their presidential primaries.
The suspension of the UCV board elections provoked a group of students to enter a University Council session by force, initially to demand an alternate date for the elections, and then, when tempers flared even more, the students demanded the resignation of the rector García Arocha, who has remained in office for 15 years without calling elections in 2012, when her original term officially ended.
(VIDEO) "¡Renuncia, renuncia!", le gritan estudiantes a Cecilia García Arocha tras la suspensión de las #EleccionesUCV2023 de hoy. Los estudiantes ingresaron al Consejo Universitario. La rectora lleva 15 años en el cargo, originalmente de 4 años. pic.twitter.com/a4Gua9wHtb
— Luigino Bracci Roa 🔧🚂 (@lubrio) May 26, 2023
— Roman Camacho (@RCamachoVzla) May 26, 2023
The electoral board explained that an investigation will be carried out to to determine the logistical failures that occurred on Friday. However, the president of the Federation of University Centers (FCU-UCV), UCV student Jesús Mendoza, said that postponing the elections to June 9 was initially a proposal by the electoral board, which was later ratified by a University Council decision.
Mendoza further pointed out that the electoral board should have communicated in time that it did not have the capacity to carry out the election. The board had initially announced that the electoral process would begin at 9:00 am and end at 8:00 pm. However, in the afternoon, the board announced the suspension of the process, arguing that “continuing to keep people in this situation of uncertainty was the main reason [for the suspension].”
He added that Professor Carlos Martín, a council member, submitted his resignation but the University Council did not accept it. This increases the uncertainty of the university community because, if Martín’s resignation is accepted, the process would be deferred until next year.
Elections should have been held in 2012
The elections for new UCV authorities should have been held in 2012, but the University Council refused to abide by the new education law, approved in 2009, which requires that the votes of the entire university community (including professors, students, employees, workers, retirees, and graduates) have the same weight: the principle of one person one vote. The law was aimed at amending the previous system, according to which the vote of a teacher was equivalent to the vote of 30 or 40 students, and non-teaching and non-administrative employees did not have the right to vote at all. The autonomous universities refused to hold elections under these conditions, even defying various rulings of the Supreme Court of Justice of Venezuela.
However, in order to finally carry out elections, an agreement was reached and a transitory regulation was created in 2022, which established the weight of votes based on the principle that “the academic community” is the creator of knowledge and its direction “rests on the faculty,” for which “weights assigned to each sector were established and calculated based on the total number of voting teachers.” According to these percentages, votes of undergraduate students account for 25%, graduates 5%, administrative staff 10%, and workers 10% of that of teachers.
(Alba Ciudad) with Orinoco Tribune content
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
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