President Carter’s Trip Report on Venezuela

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Some Excerpts from:

President Carter’s Trip Report on Venezuela, May 29-June 1, 2004

By Jimmy Carter

4 Jun 2004

The Carter Center has been deeply involved in Venezuela election processes for the past six years, having monitored the contest for president in December 1998 in which Hugo Chavez was elected …

… At the request of the government and opposition forces, we joined the Organization of American States in a sustained effort to mediate between the major political groups. Early in 2003 I went to Caracas, met with the president and his adversaries, and spelled out two options for resolving the conflict, both of which complied with provisions of the constitution. In May of that year, we helped to negotiate a pact based on one of the options, which would permit the opposition to seek signatures of 20 percent of the registered voters (2,436,000)…

… Following the collection of 3,477,000 total signatures, the basic differences persisted, and the CNE accepted 1,911,000 of them as legitimate, rejected 375,000 as invalid ? and the CNE also decided that previous confirmed signers could withdraw their names. The Carter Center and the OAS deployed approximately 100 observers throughout the nation, coordinated by Rachel Fowler, with Dr. Jennifer McCoy the leader of our delegation and Francisco Diez as our in-country representative. OAS Secretary General Gaviria and I returned to Venezuela to monitor this “reparo” procedure …

… On arriving in Caracas on Saturday, May 29, we had a thorough briefing from the OAS and Carter Center staff, and learned that there was a strong turnout on Friday, the first day, with about 360,000 names having been confirmed and 35,000 withdrawn …

… He (Chávez) assured us that he was completely reconciled to participating in the recall referendum if the 20 percent level of signatories is reached. I had heard that he might resign from office and call for an election within 60 days, when he could claim that only 20 percent of the voters opposed him and run again for office against what would probably be a fragmented opposition. He completely discounted this possibility…

…They (the five members of CNE) assured us that the CNE would not resort, as in the past, to searching for technicalities on which to base disqualifications of citizens’ preferences. In fact, at every voting site the original and four copies of each day’s report (acta) are signed and certified, and the CNE, the government, the opposition, Chavez’s political supporters and we international observers all receive identical documents. In a final analysis, there should be no dispute about the total count …

… Our next meeting was with the chief justice of the Supreme Court, who assured us in eloquent terms of his objectivity and commitment to preserving the constitutional and legal premises on which the political life of Venezuela will be preserved. He also assured us that legal appeals on the recall process would not delay or suspend preparations for an eventual recall vote, unless the allegations were extremely grave …

… Our observer teams returned from throughout the country and reported their experiences. A number of voters were turned away because of cedula (ID card) technicalities, and some who withdrew their names claimed to have been pressured by the government to do so, but the overall process was peaceful and orderly …

… When Dr. McCoy, Dr. Diez, and I met with President Chavez for supper, we described the situation to him, he called Carrasquero, and a meeting was scheduled for the following morning. We gave the president our figures (about 650,000), which showed a margin of about 125,000 requiring a referendum …

(The full document)

Perhaps it is a bit late, but I think it is still a good reading.

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