New Irregularities Reported in Signature Drive to Request Recall Referendum of Venezuela’s Chavez

Forms containing more than 644.000 signatures gathered by the opposition were never returned to be tallied and should be rejected, according to a pro-Chavez Anti-Fraud commission.

Minister of Infrastructure (Minfra) and member of an Anti-Fraud Commision, Diosdado Cabello denounced alleged irregularities committed by Venezuela’s political opposition to President Hugo Chavez during the signature drive to request a recall referendum on the President’s mandate. The Anti-Fraud Commission is a group set up by supporters of President Chavez to process claims of fraud and irregularities during the signature drive.

Cabello said this Saturday that more than 644.000 signatures gathered by the opposition, and that were reflected in tally forms as empty are “out of play”.

Cabello explained that the regulations for the verification of signatures establishes that those signature forms that are not reflected in the tally forms must be declared null. “It is clear that if a signature form is not returned neither filled nor empty the day of the signature drive, that form must be out of the game”, said Cabello.

The Anti-Fraud Commission has detected in the tally forms about 64.463 signature forms that were not returned, which could hold 644,630 signatures that may have easily be obtained after the days designated by the CNE, and then handed over along with the legally obtained ones.

The Anti-Fraud Commission based their claims on the review of copies of the tally forms used during the petition drive.

“We have told the CNE that they have a historical responsibility here. We pray to God that in the face of this fiasco, the opposition doesn’t pressure CNE members to make them resign,” said Cabello.

The Anti-Fraud Commission is requesting copies of the forms to transcribe ID cards one by one. “We have the right to do it. The work that we are doing with the tally forms will also be done with the signature forms and we are going to fight each signature because we are not talking about revoking the mandate of the president of a neighborhood association, but about revoking the mandate to the President of the Republic who won the elections by an ample majority”.

According to Cabello, the tally forms corresponding to the Capital District reflect a total of 15.027 signature forms that were not returned to the CNE, reflecting about 150 thousand signatures.

In the Miranda State, the tally forms reflect a total of 13.151 non-returned signature forms, representing 131 thousand signatures that according to Cabello “probably were now handed over to the CNE under the premise that the popular will stated in these forms are above any technical regulation”.

Cabello’s claims are a new addition to previous denunciations made by pro-Chavez groups of irregularities and fraud committed in the signature drive to request a recall referendum on President Chavez’s mandate. These irregularities include pressures from company owners to make their workers sign the petitions and the cloning of ID cards to sign more than once.

An opposition figure recently said in a phone conversation that the company in charge of providing technical support to the opposition’s anti-Chavez signature collection campaign, admitted being worried as they only managed to collect 1.9 million signatures, short of the 2.4 million required to trigger a recall referendum on the President.

The CNE has now thirty days to verify the signatures and issue a ruling on whether or not there will be a recall referendum. If a referendum is to take place, the CNE has another ninety days to organize it, which means that it would take place sometime in late April or early May. CNE members said recently that because of the holidays, the verification process will start in January, which could delay the possible referendum.

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