May 12, 2004

Carter Center, OAS to Observe Recall Reparo Period in Venezuela

Carter Center/OAS Statement, May 12, 2004

CARACAS, VENEZUELA - The Organization of American States and The Carter Center will observe the two scheduled reparos (recall signatures corrections) processes in Venezuela, May 21-23 and May 28-30. This observation occurs at the invitation of the National Electoral Council (CNE) and in the context of the Accord of May 2003. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and O.A.S. Secretary General Cesar Gaviria will lead the observation mission and will arrive in the country on May 29th to be present for the conclusion of the reparos.

The OAS and The Carter Center plan on deploying a joint mission of more than 100 international observers. Observers will be deployed in and around Caracas and many other cities, providing a strong international presence around the country. The joint mission will conduct a "quick count" -- a statistical projection of the results based on observing the count of signatures each night in a statistically representative number of centers. This quick count will provide independent information to the joint mission and to the CNE in order to corroborate the official results.

By authorization of the National Electoral Board, the mission, starting this week, will observe the Quality Control process and the development of the Electoral Notebooks and will have access to computer programs, the transmission of data, and the result totals directly in CNE headquarters. Observers will be present at the closings of the voting stations and, in addition, will receive copies of the actas. Furthermore, in the coming weeks, the joint mission will send several teams of observers to evaluate the pre-reparos environment in various cities located in the interior of the country.

We understand that the purpose of the reparo period, established by the CNE in the current regulations (Article 31 of the Reparo Regulation dated Sept. 25) is to guarantee the citizens' free expression of will. These regulations establish that individuals who have had their signature invalidated due to a material error by the CNE during the verification can now include their signature as valid, and those who allege that they did not sign can exclude and invalidate their signature. In both cases, the goal is to avoid new verifications, and the simple manifestation of the citizen is sufficient. Thus, according to the CNE regulations and all international standards, the act of petition signing-the same as the act of voting-is a singular expression of will that cannot be subsequently changed during the reparos.

Both the OAS and The Carter Center are deeply concerned by reports of intimidation of signers. We reiterate that each individual signer should be able to freely exercise his/her right to reparo, without harassment or coercion, whether it is exercised directly, or indirectly through the deprivation of rights or benefits to which all should have equal access.

Finally, in light of the growing tensions, we urge all political forces, social actors, media, and the population in general to demonstrate to the world in the coming weeks the strength of the democratic spirit and the desire for peaceful coexistence among Venezuelans. We reiterate our promise to continue working together with the authorities and all political actors to strengthen democracy in Venezuela.