Venezuela Officials Praise Colin Powell’s Statements on Signature Repair for Recall

Powell's statements with regard to the signature repair process were welcomed by Venezuelan officials who perceived them as respectful of Venezuela's sovereignty in contrast with those of Roger Noriega

Colin Powell’s statements are significantly different from those of Roger Noriega, said Vice-president Rangel
Credit: Venpres

Caracas, Venezuela. May 28 ( Venezuelan officials reacted favorably to US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s statements regarding the process of ratification of signatures currently under way for a possible recall referendum on President Hugo Chavez.

Vice-president Jose Vicente Rangel said that Powell “gave in important step in foreign policy by rectifying that his country will not interfere in the internal affairs of Venezuela, in contrast with statements by the Sub-Secretary of Latin American Affairs, Roger Noriega.”

During a briefing on U.S. foreign policy yesterday, Powell said “the process begins today, the reparo process, as it is known, where people will be able to verify their signatures. There was some question about a large number of signatures. And they will be able, over the next several days, to go to places where they can verify the data associated with their signature and their signature. And I hope that that will happen in an open, free, fair way with no interference on the part of anyone.”

The US official added that “when that process has been finished and the electoral authorities in Venezuela make a judgment as to the validity of the votes, how many additional, not votes, but signatures, for the documents are valid, that will point in one of two directions. Either it will point to there being sufficient number of signatures for a recall referendum, or there are not sufficient numbers of signatures. It is now up to the Venezuelan people. The United States just hopes that the Government of Venezuela will allow this process to move forward in accordance with its own constitutional principles. We are not interfering in it. All we want to do is make sure that the people of Venezuela are not denied the opportunity to exercise their rights under their own constitution.”

Rangel, said Powell’s statements are significantly different from those of Roger Noriega, who warned that if no recall referendum is convoked following the re-verification process, the U.S. would be forced to act. “It’s very clear to us the requisite number of people supported the petition” for a referendum, Noriega told the Washington Times on Wednesday.

In an article by Noriega published in a Venezuelan newspaper, the US official accused the Chavez government of trying to block the Venezuelan people from having their signatures counted. Noriega hinted that the U.S. government could ask other American countries to convoke the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Democratic Charter against Venezuela, which would entitle diplomatic and economic sanctions.

Rangel reiterated that government officials, including himself and President Chavez, would respect “any outcome” of the referendum process “because this is a creation of the Chavista process.”

The Vice-president condemned the fact that no opposition leader has stated they will respect the outcome of the recall process if it does not favors them.

Powell’s statements “clear”

Venezuela’s Ambassador to Washington, Bernardo Alvarez, said that Powell’s statements were “clear”, and praised the US official for his recognition of the Venezuelan people’s participation in the signature verification process.

“Noriega’s statements have upset several political sectors of the US,” said the Ambassador.

Alvarez reminded that Powell expressed a “critical attitude” during his briefing to the US Congress when President Chavez was briefly overthrown by opposition forces and military generals in April of 2002. Alvarez said that Powell disagreed with the ambiguous position of other US officials when the coup took place.

Venezuela’s Ambassador to the Organization of American States denounced Noriega before that organization. Valero said the US official’s statements were “an attack on Venezuela’s sovereignty”.

The president of the National Electoral Council (CNE), Francisco Carrasquero, also rejected Noriega’s statements and “all types of interference in our internal affairs.”

The signature re-verification process enters its second day today amid rumors of possible violence from sectors of the opposition. The Bloque Democratico opposition coalition issued a statement calling for “civil disobedience” if the recall is not convoked.