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Venezuela: Zamora denounced fraud intent

By Eugenio Martinez, El Universal

The vice president of the National Electoral Council (CNE), Ezequiel Zamora, said that 117 officials of the electoral agency were in risk of being fired for having signed the presidential recall petition, which he associated with the possibility of a fraud in the upcoming recall vote.

The 117 names were listed in a document that fell in the hands of the journalists covering the CNE source after a meeting between the CNE's Executive Director Esther Gautier and Deputy Edgar Zambrano of Acción Democrática (opposition). It had been also delivered to the office of Zamora, who immediately held a meeting with Director Jorge Rodríguez.

"If the list were true, if these dismissals were completed, I would denounce that a fraud is being prepared at the CNE," Zamora said. "If any of those included in the list were fired, then the (electoral) organization would be preparing a fraud."

The list includes key staff in charged of the organization of the recall vote scheduled for August 15. Zamora added that the 117 officials belong to the opposition and are known for their experience and good performance.

A few hours before Zamora's statement, CNE Director Oscar Battaglini had suggested that the organization should investigate whether the 200,000 persons chosen to work in the voting centers in August 15 signed the petition, as these people, in his opinion, "are not impartial."

"An official signing (the petition) has lost his or her quality of arbiter because he or she has expressed a political inclination," Battaglini said, assuring the CNE will certainly be purged.

Asked about Battaglini's words, a clearly irritated Zamora said: "Nothing and nobody may stop the Venezuelans to exercise their political rights. (Battaglini) ignores the Constitution. We would need to import Martians who have taken part in no (electoral) process."

Answers

After Zamora's comments to the press, Rodríguez came out of his office to defend the need for the CNE's impartiality.

"We have to be impartial in this agency," he said. "Under article 27 of the Elections Law, any citizen may request the removal of a member of the CNE if (the officer) is known to be registered with or to have an active participation in or to follow instructions of a political organization during the development of his or her duties."

However, Zamora replied some minutes later that the 117 official would have been most probably fired as soon as Friday if he had not reported the existence of the list.

Director Sobella Mejías supported the vice president's statements saying that there is the intention to cause problems within the CNE "to damage the referendum process." Mejías also reminded Rodríguez that article 27 of the Elections Law referred only to the directors of the electoral authority.

One hour later, Francisco Carrasquero, president of the CNE, issued a memorandum addressed to the agency's officials to remind them of their obligation to be impartial. Rodríguez then clearly said that the CNE was not planning to fire anyone, and described the list as "a smoke screen."

Translated by Edgardo Malaver



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