International Observer Denounces Irregularities in Anti-Chavez Signature Drive

Alicia Castro, international observer of the signature drive to request a recall referendum on the mandate of President Chavez, presents a report about irregularities in the process.

Argentinean National Deputy, Alicia Castro, was designated by the Venezuelan National Elections Council (CNE) as an international observer of the signature drive in petition of a recall referendum on the mandate of the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez. Regarding her observations, the legislator warned about ‘the possible fraud and manipulation in the collection of signatures’. With this in mind, we are publishing the report presented by Alicia Castro to the National Elections Council notifying them of the irregularities observed.

On November 28 in the city of Caracas, I participated as an accredited international observer by the NEC in the signature collection process in petition of a recall referendum on the mandate of the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Commander Hugo Chávez. I was accompanied by an official from the NEC (Argenis), who could also report on the irregularities observed.

The places where I observed the signature collection tables were the following:

1. Avenue South 2. From Bárcena to Río. Quinta Crespo (next to Radio Caracas TV).
2. Ministry of Education.
3. Panteón Boulevard.
4. Parking of the Church Chiquinquirá. La Florida.
5. Los Ruices. Los Palos Grandes.

Location ‘1’: I could verify a flagrant violation of the regulations of the press and publicity established by the NEC.

Radio Caracas TV had installed a vehicle with producers, actors and cameramen who were filming, in the signature collection line, a television program entitled “Ají Picante” with an explicit content aggressively opposing the President of the Republic and supporting the recall referendum.

As such, the channel directed the actors to move near the signature collection lines, where they proceeded to give publicity in favor of the referendum and signed autographs. These scenes were taken advantage of and filmed.

I personally went to the authorities of the channel to express my pertinent observations.

Locations ‘1’ ,’2′, ‘3’, ‘4’ y ‘5’: I observed that cards with publicity (‘The Signature Drive’) were given out by the signature collection tables and that celestial blue colored stickers with the phrase ‘I Signed’ were also given out with the purpose of, per the commentaries I heard from the participants and to which I attest, confirming to employers that their employees had participated in this process.

Location ‘4’: Church of Chiquinquirá. Just a few meters from the signature collection table, there was an installation consisting of a white awning, a table, a few chairs and three computers, where, as I was told by four people who worked with them, they were confirming data in the ‘Electoral System of the NEC.’

Underneath that awning they proceeded to conduct detailed observations of the documentation of signors, check it in the computers and note it down on a card that contained the Venezuelan flag and was attached to a photocopy with the name and document number of each person. 

I observed that the whole process was conducted at the margin of the established institutional framework.

When I asked for more information, the people working at the computers confirmed that they belonged to the company ‘Súmate’.

I brought my impressions about this true ‘privatization’ of the signature collection process to the Coordinator of the Table, Mr. Juan Carlos Calderón.

In this same place, I also suffered verbal aggressions by the signors, who began to yell that they did not need international observers and also uttered insults.

At the same time, I should report that throughout that day, a number of citizens came to me to denounce that in distinct parts of the city, there were ‘itinerant’ signature collectors who were collecting signatures without impartial witnesses or any observers, which establishes that in some sectors, there was organized fraud.

In this same sense, I was surprised that the private television media aired propaganda about the large quantity of people who were participating in the signature drive, which starkly contrasted with my ‘in situ’ observation, since there was not a great quantity of signors in any of the neighborhoods or tables observed.

Gentlemen, as an impartial observer and as a National Deputy in the Argentinean Parliament, I want to point out that the process of signature collection for a recall referendum is a valuable instrument of participatory democracy that our people possess.

It is therefore of extreme importance that this process is not disturbed by fraud or conspiracy.

I give you my regards and my most distinguished consideration.
Argentine National Deputy
Passport 6.726.655

Translated by Eva Golinger.