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Venezuela: problems delaying signature collection drive already solved

By El Universal News Team

(28.11.03) - Opposition leader Antonio Ledezma rejected a decision by the National Electoral Council (CNE) to prevent computers from being used at signature collection centers in order to check electoral databases

Opposition leader Antonio Ledezma on Friday reported that until noon on Friday 80 percent of signature collection centers nationwide had opened their doors, in the first day of an electoral move aimed at gathering signatures for endorsing recall petitions against President Hugo Chávez and 36 pro-government deputies.

Speaking on behalf of the opposition umbrella group Democratic Coordinator, Ledezma claimed that a significant delay was reported in signature collection centers located in western Zulia State, but inconveniences have already been solved.

Ledezma rejected a decision by the National Electoral Council (CNE) to prevent computers from being used at signature collection centers in order to check electoral databases.

He also rebutted the fact that employees working for government agencies have been told not to sign.

Early birds

Venezuelans opposing President Hugo Chávez lined up outside signature collection centers as early as 6:00 a.m.

Signatures started to be collected during the morning, even though the process was delayed because the military officers in charge of protecting the signature collection centers -under the so-called Plan República- and the balloting material did not arrive on time.

But Sobella Mejía, a director of the National Electoral Council (CNE), reminded that if signature collection centers are opened later than scheduled, the collection of signatures has to be extended for a similar time, so as to cover the statutory 12 hours a day set for gathering the signatures.

Later in the morning, sources reported that the collection of signatures is being conducted normally throughout the Venezuelan capital city, including the municipalities of Sucre, Chacao and Libertador.

Motorists in several areas of Caracas were blowing the horns and turning lights on and off as a way to support this electoral move.

A commitment

On Thursday, the opposition umbrella group Democratic Coordinator ratified in a document read by Enrique Mendoza, governor of Miranda State and outstanding opposition leader, its commitment to strictly abide by "the rules of the game." The organization's goal is to reach "a pact ensuring governability and a government of national unity and reconciliation."

The Venezuelan opposition urged citizens to get out to the streets to sign recall petitions against President Chávez and pro-government parliamentarians from Nov. 28 to Dec. 1. "Let nobody stay at home. Every signature counts," said Mendoza.

"Most Venezuelans have shown they support a peaceful, electoral solution which strictly abides by the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (...) In this moment, we cannot neglect a pact signed on May 29, which contributed to pave the way we have traveled to reach this point. The Venezuelan people sincerely appreciates the efforts of the international community, the countries comprising the Group of Friends of Venezuela, and especially the efforts made by César Gaviria, secretary general of the Organization of American States, in favor of peace and democracy in Venezuela," the document read.

"The Venezuelan opposition, true to the principles of democracy and respect for the laws, has prepared carefully for this move. This effort does not limit to political parties and leaders. If somebody asks why are we signing, we answer: 'Because it is time for our voices to be heard."

Translated by Maryflor Suárez

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