March 3, 2004

OAS-Carter Center Statement


March 2, 2004
Caracas-Today, the National Electoral Council (CNE) made public the preliminary official results of the process of verification of signatures for the petition to recall the president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

The presence of the Organization of American States (OAS) and The Carter Center throughout all stages has been continuous, thorough and comprehensive. During the petition drive some 50 international observers covered more than 50 percent of the signature collection centers in 20 States throughout the country, witnessing first hand the democratic and civic spirit demonstrated by all Venezuelans. In the ongoing process of verification of the signatures, the OAS has accompanied the CNE in each technical stage, working three shifts 24 hours per day, observing these activities in detail. The Carter Center carried out an analysis of the process based on a statistically representative sample to determine whether the verification criteria used by the CNE were applied correctly. We would like to extend our appreciation to the European Union and to the countries of the hemisphere which have supported our efforts with resources and public recognition of our work.

As international observers, our objectives are to assure that the process is transparent, complying with the laws and regulations of the country; that it respects the will of the citizens; and that the citizens and the actors have confidence in the process and the results. We have expressed privately and publicly the international criteria for general principles that guide this type of process. These principles include transparency and controls to prevent fraud, as well as the promotion of the participation of the citizens.

In this process, in particular, we find sufficient controls , including security paper for the petitions, full identification of the citizen with signature and thumbprint, summary forms (actas) listing the petition (planillas) serial numbers during the collection process, party witnesses, personnel trained and designated by the CNE, verification of each petition form and cross-check with the summary forms , cross-check of the names with the voters list, and a mechanism for appeal and correction.

We have had some discrepancies with the CNE over the verification criteria. In the case of the petition forms in which the basic data of several signers, but not the signatures themselves appear to have been filled in by one person, we do not share the criterion of the CNE to separate these signatures, sending them to the appeals process in order to be rectified by the citizens. These occur such large numbers that they could have an impact on the outcome of the process.

We recognize that in any such process there can be attempts to manipulate the will of the citizens, but it is necessary to evaluate the magnitude of the impact that these attempts could have on the total universe. We understand the concerns of the CNE, but the evaluation should start from the presumption of the good faith of the citizen as a universal principle. During the signature collection process, we observed that some collection agent assisted signers in good faith by filling in their basic data.

Those citizens who are erroneously or fraudulently included on the list (planillas) should be given the opportunity to remove their names during the appeals and correction period. In addition, the signatures themselves that appear to have a similar handwriting, which have also been found, should be carefully reviewed in order to reject those that are not genuine.