Venezuela’s Electoral Council President Says Latest OAS-Carter Center Statement is “Biased”

CNE President Carrasquero and CNE member Jorge Rodriguez say that the Organization of American States and the Carter Center issued a "biased" statement yesterday, which appears to contradict an agreement between the electoral council and the international observers.

Caracas, May 13, 2004—National Electoral Council president Francisco Carrasquero and Council Member Jorge Rodriguez issued declarations today, in which they categorically rejected yesterday’s Carter Center-Organization of American States (OAS) statement on the process for “repairing” the petition for a presidential recall referendum. As long as the OAS and Carter Center do not retract or correct their statement, Carrasquero and Rodriguez say they will no longer hold meeting with representatives from the two organizations. They will be allowed to continue observing the process, however.

The “repair” process, which will be held May 21-23 and May 28-30, will allow Venezuelans to either confirm or deny that they intended to sign the petitions for recalling the president or legislators. The OAS and Carter Center (CC) have been acting as observers and sometimes as mediators in the recall process.

According to Carrasquero and Rodriguez, the OAS/CC statement issues an interpretation of article 31 of the rules governing the recall process that they say repeats the interpretations of the opposition coalition Democratic Coordinator and which it did not consult with the CNE. “It is incontrovertible that the OAS mission and the Carter Center have overstepped their functions as observers, violating the agreement that was signed with the CNE on November 20, 2003, which says in section 2b that the mission would inform the CNE in a confidential manner of any irregularity, technical deficiency, or interference that they have been able to observe,” said Carrasquero.

According to the agreement, “the mission may only issue public and periodic reports as the result of on site observations, but it is not permitted to make interpretations of norms issued by the CNE as an autonomous and independent power with regard to other powers,” added Carrasquero.

Article 31 has become a delicate issue because opposition leaders say that council member Jorge Rodriguez invented a new category of signers for the repair process, the “repenters,” who regret having signed and wish to have their names stricken from the recall referendum petition. OAS/Carter Center statement takes a clear position in this matter.

The OAS/CC statement reads, “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.” It also adds, “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.” The OAS/CC interpretation thus excludes the possibility of those who regret having signed to exclude their names from the petition during the repair process. Only those who say that their name was put there by someone else may have it removed from the petition.

Carrasquero and Rodriguez, however, say that it is not one of the functions of the OAS and Carter Center to interpret CNE rules. Also, Rodriguez said that in previous meetings between CNE officials and representatives of the OAS and Carter Center it was agreed upon by all sides that “one will not ask people the reason for why they want to exclude themselves” from the recall referendum petition. According to Rodriguez, the OAS and Carter Center did not object to this procedure. The OAS/CC statement shows that the international observers “have lost their impartial character.”