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Venezuela CNE's Director: We have to respect the electoral arbiter if we want democracy

By Maria Lilibeth Da Corte and Eugenio Martinez (El Universal)

Francisco Carrasquero, head of the National Electoral Council (CNE), stated that, if the parties are "rational," there is no need to sign an agreement intended to ensure respect for the decisions CNE is to adopt concerning the results of signature collection moves conducted by both the government and the opposition.

Francisco Carrasquero, president of the CNE, on Thursday warned that if Venezuelans want to continue to live in democracy, peace, harmony, tranquility, and unity," they have to respect the decisions of the top electoral body.

According to Carrasquero, the presence of international observers in electoral processes guarantees both transparency and reliability in a process intended to validate and authenticate the signatures collected by both the government and the opposition to support recall petitions on the mandates of popularly elected officials, including President Hugo Chávez. But he said the most important thing is "that the Venezuelan people and the parties concerned respect the decisions of the arbiter. Otherwise, what are we doing here?"

"If there is rationality," he added, there is no need to sign an agreement between the government and the opposition to guarantee compliance with the decisions of CNE.

Carrasquero and the other directors of CNE are scheduled to meet on Friday with leaders of the Democratic Coordinator. During the meeting, Carrasquero expects the opposition group to set a date for submitting the signatures they collected from Nov. 28 to Dec. 1 to demand recall votes against President Chávez and pro-government lawmakers. This move would avoid any delays in the signature verification process, "but it is their call, if they do not deliver the signatures they will have to face the consequences."

Even though no decision has been made on the participation of government and opposition witnesses during the signature verification process, Carrasquero warned it is advisable "not to crowd the verification rooms. This is a hard, delicate work, and we need data transcribers to focus on their task."

Signature verification has started

CNE has already started processing and verifying signature collection minutes from the opposition signature collection move conducted from Nov. 28 to Dec. 1.

CNE's Information Technology Division decided to process first the documents reflecting the number of signature collection forms that were used during the gathering of signatures endorsing a recall vote against President Chávez.

An elite group of 18 transcribers is to "count" the signature collection forms, in order to estimate the number of signatures gathered.

So far, CNE has processed the minutes for Nov. 28 and Nov. 29, and the results obtained have provoked big disputes between government and opposition players.

Translated by Maryflor Suárez

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