|Venezuelans stand in line to ratify or nullify their signatures to demand a recall referendum against President Chavez.|
Caracas, Venezuela. May 27 (Venezuelanalysis.com).- The first day of the signature verification process for a possible recall referendum on President Hugo Chavez’s mandate ended successfully, wining the praise of international observers.
Since today, until Sunday, May 30, Venezuelans who signed to demand a recall referendum on the President, and whose signatures present irregularities, may come forward and “repair” them, thus confirming that they indeed intended to sign. Likewise, those who may have signed under pressure from employers, or who erroneously appear as signers, may also come forward and nullify their signatures. 1,192,914 signatures are subject to repair. The oppsition needs to revalidate at least 600,000 signatures in order to trigger the recall.
President Chavez has said several times that he will respect any outcome of the signature collection process, and asserted that he is confident he would win a recall referendum if the opposition manages to collect enough valid signatures to trigger it.
|Military officers were deployed to guard signature repair centers such as this one in Caracas.|
The Organization of American States, the Carter Center, as well as international observers from several Latin American countries, Canada and Spain, are acting as observers of the signature repair process.
“The process in general is advancing in a satisfactory manner, with minimal inconveniences,” said the Secretary General of the OAS, Cesar Gaviria, who arrived today to take over the OAS mission that is overseen the referenda process.
After meeting with Venezuelan Vice-President Jose Vicente Rangel, Gaviria said that almost all of the centers setup for the signature repair process are working without any obstacles.
Very little activity was observed around the signature repair centers during this first day. Centers located in some locations in middle and upper-class sections of Caracas, experienced the greatest numbers of people participating. However, opposition leaders claimed to be pleased with the number of signatures repaired during the first day, and expressed confidence in achieving their goal.
|Very few people went to repair their signatures at centers such as the one setup at the San Ignacio high school in Caracas.|
Gaviria urged all political factions to act with moderation. “Sometimes, electoral periods agitated people’s minds, particularly that of the main actors of the political controversy. I hope that moderation can prevail. The essential thing is that people participate in this process in a way that represents their will, and I hope that the process ends well,” said Gaviria.
Several politicians who support the government have denounced that the head of the OAS mission, Fernando Jaramillo, is biased, acting in favor of the opposition. National Assembly Deputy Ismael Garcia, who heads the pro-government coalition for election-related affairs know as Comando Ayacucho, said they have proof that Jaramillo has met with numerous opposition leaders, and has received money from them, charges that Jaramillo has denied. Pro-government politicians demanded that the OAS remove Jaramillo from the delegation because “his attitude damages the credibility of the OAS”. OAS Secretary General Gaviria rejected the request to remove Jaramillo.
Government sectors have also denounced a “Plan B” that the opposition may implement with the help of foreign government officials, if they do not manage to repair enough signatures. The alleged plan would consist on massive resignations from opposition National Assembly deputies, National Electoral Council board members and government officials who are sympathetic of the opposition, and some diplomats. The plan would be to create a crisis of governability to force foreign countries to put pressure on Chavez to resign.
|Crews at one of the signature repair centers in Chacao, Caracas, hope to receive more people during the second and third days of the signature repair process.|
Last Tuesday, U.S. Sub-Secretary for Inter-American Affairs, Roger Noriega, claimed that the U.S. government knows already that the opposition has enough valid signatures for the recall referendum to be convoked. Noriega also said that if the recall referendum against President Chavez is not convoked, Washington will not remain with crossed arms. “We will use what multilateral levers we have,” said Noriega, who later added that the U.S. government could ask other American countries to convoke the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Democratic Charter against Venezuela in order to isolate the country internationally.
Yesterday, reacting to Noriega’s statements, Venezuelan Vice-President Jose Vicente Rangel said that the U.S. could no longer be considered part of the “Group of Friends”. The “Group of Friends” is a grouping of six countries that were organized at the initiative of the Brazilian government last year to accompany the negotiations between the opposition and the Venezuelan government. The group includes the U.S., Brazil, Portugal, Spain, Chile, and Mexico.
|A signature repair center in Campo Alegre, Caracas, received very few people during the first day.|
The recall referendum is a new constitutional right Venezuelans won thanks to the new Constitution drafted by an elected Constituent Assembly during Hugo Chavez’s first year in office. The referendum was an idea proposed by Chavez to the Assembly, and it was supported by the majority.
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