OAS and Carter Center to stay as Observers in Venezuela

Following a public falling-out between electoral council members and representatives of the Organization of American States and the Carter Center, bridges have been mended and the observers will remain to follow the recall referendum process.

Caracas, May 18, 2004—Representatives of the Carter Center and the Organization of American States issued a new statement yesterday in which they declared their intention to continue observing the recall referendum process and that via informal conversations with members of the electoral council they have “filed down” the “rough edges caused by recent public declarations.”

Last week Electoral Council (CNE) members Jorge Rodriguez, Francisco Carrasquero, and Oscar Battaglini reacted angrily to an earlier OAS/Carter Center statement, in which the observers offered interpretations and opinions about the procedures for the “repair” of recall referendum signatures, in which Venezuelans may either re-confirm their invalidated signature or have it stricken from the petition. The the three council members said that the observers should have presented their opinions to the CNE first, as per an earlier agreement, before making them public. The observers, however, said that they were merely re-stating existing “repair”  process rules. The repair process is to take place later this month, from May 21-23 for the petitions for recall referenda for legislators and May 28-30 for the presidential recall referendum petition.

The Carter Center/OAS statement reaffirms that the CNE has “allowed the members of the international mission to continue with their tasks of observing the process.” Finally, the statement says that representatives from the CNE and the international observers have agreed to meet with each other on Wednesday.

CNE member Jorge Rodriguez affirmed the contents of the Carter Center/OAS statement today, saying that the impasse between the two groups was in the process of being resolved but that a final resolution would depend on the meeting to be held on Wednesday.

Accusations of OAS staff receiving financial favors from opposition

Further complicating the OAS role in Venezuela are recent accusations by pro-government legislator Ismael Garcia, who over the weekend claimed to have evidence of an OAS staff member being reimbursed by the oppositional TV channel Venevision for travel and lodging. Venevision is a TV channel owned by global media magnate Gustavo Cisneros, who has been actively involved in the opposition. Garcia said that he would take the proof he has to the attorney general and that the CNE ought to suspend all contacts with the OAS until the matter has been clarified.

Fernando Jaramillo, the director of the OAS observer mission in Venezuela vehemently denied that the OAS was receiving financial support from the opposition.