The government is stuck. It does not want this to go forward quickly, and is undermining it in a number of different ways (such as lawsuits). But it also cannot just say it won't happen, especially since the international community has set its mind on having a vote. The most likely scenario is allowing a vote on January 11 (yes, I could even see it being that brazen) which, if lost, would still keep Chavismo in power a little longer.
And now we hear:
After meeting with members of the government and the opposition, the National Electoral Council said on Wednesday that a potential plebiscite "could be held in the middle of the first quarter of 2017".
You could see that one coming from a mile away. The government will lose the referendum if it is free and fair, so wants to postpone it as long as it possibly can and make it as onerous as it possibly can.
The next question is whether the government will drag its feet, then declare there aren't enough signatures. Already it announced that the 20% signature requirement must be met in each state, and is limiting the number of voting machines available for the three days of voting. After years of bragging about how many elections Hugo Chávez won, now we're at a point where Chavistas hate the very thought of elections. For them, desperate times mean desperate measures.