Recall Referenda against Nine Venezuelan Opposition Legislators

According to unofficial leaked reports, nine opposition legislators will have to face a recall vote in August, following the successful "repair" of signatures on the petitions for recall referenda this past weekend.

Caracas, May 25, 2004—According to anonymous Electoral Council sources, reported in the Venezuelan daily Últimas Noticias, nine opposition legislators will have to face recall referenda, following the certification of signatures in one pro-government and 13 opposition petitions for convoking recall referenda. This means that of the 36 petitions submitted by government supporters to revoke opposition legislators’ mandates, nine succeeded. Of the 30 petitions the opposition submitted to revoke opposition pro-government lawmakers, none ultimately succeeded.

The National Electoral Council (CNE) has said that it will present the official results of last weekend’s signature certification (“repair”) process by Thursday. This coming Friday, May 28 through May 29, the signatures of the petition to convoke a recall referendum against President Chavez will take place.

The recall referenda are scheduled to take place in August. If successful, this would raise the pro-government coalition majority from currently 85-80 to 87-76, thus giving the governing coalition a solid 11-vote majority. A successful recall vote means that the legislator’s substitute, who was elected at the same time as the principal representative, would become a full member of the National Assembly. Two of the legislators facing a recall, Nelson Ventura (Solidaridad) and Luis Longart (MAS) have pro-government substitutes because these legislators switched sides after having been elected on the pro-Chavez ticket.

The other legislators would either be replaced by legislators from the same party or, as in the case of Rafael Marin (ex-AD) and Salomon Centeno (AD), do not have substitutes because their substitutes died in car accidents. Recalling them would lower the legislature’s number of representatives from 165 to 163. Next legislative elections are scheduled for mid-2005.

OAS and Carter Center Congratulate Participants of the “Repair”

The director of the Carter Center’s peace program, Gordon Streeb, who is visiting Venezuela for the repair process, and Fernando Jaramillo, the OAS representative, issued a statement yesterday, in which they said, “the sessions for repairing the signatures for referenda against 13 pro-government and one opposition legislator took place in a calm and peaceful atmosphere, without incidents that would affect the process.” The also congratulated all participants for the successful completion of this part of the process.

In response to a complaint that various government supporters issued against Jaramillo for being biased, Jaramillo said that he believes that he is “absolutely impartial” and that “the temperature in this matter should be lowered a bit.” Jorge Rodriguez, one of the CNE board members, and Ismael Garcia, chair of the pro-government campaign team, had said that Jaramillo should be replaced because he had made an unwarranted statement during the repair process, in which he said that fewer people than expected had turned out for the process.

For the second phase of the signature “repair” of signatures on the presidential petition for a recall referendum, Carter Center founder Jimmy Carter and OAS General Secretary Cesar Gaviria will be in Venezuela to observe the process.