OAS Secretary General César Gaviria: Signature collection in Venezuela is legitimate
By Elvia Gomez, El Universal
01.12.03 - OAS General Secretary claims President Chávez is to report alleged abnormalities to CNE. The members of a Follow-up Committee created to verify the enforcement of a pact reached on May between the government, the opposition, and several international facilitators rejected before the OAS Secretary General a set of moves adopted by the Venezuelan government such as the closure of several airports, the country's borders, and a series of calls made by pro-government leaders for Chávez' followers to stage violent acts
César Gaviria, Secretary General of the Organization of American States, on Sunday openly refused to make statements on what he described as "hypotheses," referring to reports that pro-government groups had tried to sabotage a nationwide initiative to collect signatures demanding recall votes against both Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and pro-government parliamentarians.
Instead, Gaviria stressed that OAS observers have reported the collection of signatures -that started on Friday and is to end on Monday- has evolved normally.
"All observers have said the process is good or reasonably acceptable. While intimidation attempts have been reported, the process has not been interrupted."
During a news conference late on Sunday, Gaviria said he believed that both President Chávez and the leaders of ruling party MVR -who have described the collection of signatures as a fraud- are to file their complaints with the National Electoral Council (CNE).
According to Gaviria, the most important thing is that the system CNE designed has worked, and that Venezuelans willing to sign recall petitions have been able to do so. He underlined that disturbing incidents that have been reported in several regions of the country are normal. He claimed, however, that such "incidents are not going to affect the legitimacy of the process."
Gaviria met on Sunday with the opposition representatives to the Follow-up Committee of the Negotiation and Agreement Table. During this meeting, he was informed about some decisions the Venezuelan government adopted during the weekend, and the calls to violence made by certain government leaders.
"It is not our task to assess the claims President (Chávez) has made because we do not know what such claims are. It is a task for CNE. CNE is the authority in this field. I am sure that if they (Chávez and National Assembly President Francisco Ameliach) have any knowledge of any abnormalities or frauds, they are going to report to CNE. CNE is the body to evaluate evidence (...) They have to resort to CNE, which is a reliable arbiter -as the parties have admitted. During this process (CNE) has shown a serious, pondered, efficient and timely behavior."
"I do not want to believe that they are trying not to report their plans to CNE. The parties are committed to a democratic solution, endorsed by the parties that signed an agreement. I am sure nobody is leaving aside such parameters. We are convinced that it will be this way, that the parties are going to trust the arbiter."
When asked if the opposition-led collection of signatures was held in equal grounds as the collection of signatures conducted by pro-government groups from Nov. 21 to 24 -considering the fact that during the electoral move organized by pro-government groups no airports or borders were closed and the computerized access to the Permanent Electoral Register was not restricted, Gaviria responded: "When (the government) alleges security reasons rather than electoral reasons, it is difficult to talk about conditions."
"I have not been given explanations (on the reasons the government had to adopt such moves), but the President of CNE has. Nevertheless, they (the government) have not alleged electoral reasons but security reasons. Therefore, I cannot judge this situation. I do not know if the government plans to disclose its reasons any time from now. The government has given sufficient explanations to CNE, and CNE has acted diligently. I am sure that CNE is to continue to act this way. I am sure their decisions are to match the highest interests of this country and not others' interests."
Translated by Maryflor Suárez
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