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Venezuela: Opposition to deliver signatures to CNE on Friday

By Elvia Gomez

[El Universal 18.12.03] - Spokespersons for the opposition umbrella group Democratic Coordinator and civil association Súmate announced they concluded the verification of the signatures -with an error margin of 3.7 percent-, which means that 135,001 signatures less than the figure announced two weeks ago were gathered

The opposition political parties under the Democratic Coordinator, together with international observers from the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Carter Center, on Friday are to submit to the National Electoral Council (CNE) the signatures they collected to demand a recall vote on President Hugo Chávez' mandate.

A total 500 boxes containing both the original signature collection forms and their copies are now stored at the headquarters of civil association Súmate. The signatures will be transported in a convoy from the headquarters of civil association Súmate to CNE.

Enrique Mendoza, governor of Miranda State and coordinator of Democratic Coordinator; Alejandro Armas (lawmaker for Solidaridad party); Juan Fernández (leader of civil association Gente del Petróleo); and María Corina Machado (civil association Súmate), announced they ended verifying the signatures.

They allowed the media to check the place where the signatures have been stored.

Machado ensured that they gathered 3.46 million signatures to demand a presidential recall vote. She insisted that more than 1 million signatures were collected above the number of signatures needed to demand a revoking referendum against President Chávez.

"In such a massive and complex process, it is natural to find some differences. But (error margins) were inferior to our original estimations," said Machado, adding that error margin was 3.7 percent. She explained 135,001 signatures less than the original estimations were collected.

"We have to remind that the figures disclosed by the Democratic Coordinator were the number of signatures (opposition electoral witnesses) reported from signature collection centers while the signature collection forms were transported (to Súmate storage center). Venezuelans already know that some problems emerged: some materials were destroyed, other were seized, and some were lost. We are now announcing the exact number of signatures as per the forms that we have received in this storage center," she said.

Meanwhile, Enrique Mendoza, stated he believes "common sense shall prevail" among the directors of CNE, and the rules governing the official verification of the signatures will not be changed. He added that the opposition has requested both OAS and the Carter Center to be present during the process -from the moment the vaults where the signatures are stored are opened until the moment the forms are delivered to CNE. He commended the work conducted by Súmate, and ensured that "every citizen may be certain that his/her signature is not lost."

Alejandro Armas indicated: "These signatures are the weapons of freedom; the weapons of democracy; the weapons to achieve reconciliation and to reconstruct the country. These are the weapons a peaceful people shall use to solve a crisis. These signatures represent a tribute to an overwhelming majority of Venezuelans that -beyond obstacles, problems, and difficulties, imposed their will to pave this way... No bureaucratic obstacle may obstruct our right to exercise this right."

Juan Fernández stressed that "the efforts made by the people who stamped their signatures mean a consolidation of democracy in our country. Even though many people did not want the signatures to be collected, here we have the signatures."

Translated by Maryflor Suárez

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