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Venezuela: Opposition submits presidential recall petition to CNE


[El Universal 19.12.03] - The Democratic Coordinator submitted the signature collection forms in 250 boxes that were taken from Boleíta, northeast Caracas, to downtown Caracas President Hugo Chávez' opponents delivered to the National Electoral Council (CNE) 3.4 million signatures endorsing a petition intended to demand a revoking referendum against the Venezuelan President.

Earlier than scheduled, the opposition alliance Democratic Coordinator on Friday delivered to the National Electoral Council (CNE) 250 boxes containing the original signature collection forms completed from Nov. 28 to Dec. 1 to back a recall petition against President Hugo Chávez. They also submitted 80 boxes containing photocopies of the forms. A total 3,467,050 Venezuelans stamped their signatures to demand a popular vote aimed at the early termination of Chávez' mandate.

As requested by CNE, for space restrictions, the opposition alliance submitted only 80 boxes containing the photocopies of the forms. The rest of the copies is to be delivered during the day. The transportation of the signatures from Boleíta, northeast Caracas, to the headquarters of CNE, downtown Caracas, was conducted under the protection of the military electoral protection Plan República and dozens of civilians. The signatures were officially submitted at 8:00 a.m. to the electoral authorities.

Opposition groups were supposed to gather at 6:00 a.m. outside the headquarters of civil association Súmate, where the signatures were both audited and stored, to witness the moment the signatures departed for CNE. Nevertheless, around 5:00 a.m. a convoy of autobuses transporting the signatures departed for CNE. Subsequently, representatives of the Democratic Coordinator offered a news conference from the headquarters of CNE, once they submitted the signatures to the directors of the top electoral body.

Lawmaker Julio Borges (opposition Primero Justicia party) stated that the opposition leaders who headed the delivery of the signatures are just "messengers for millions of Venezuelans. We have come here to demand respect for the will millions of people have expressed" by stamping their signatures during the collection of signatures conducted by both pro-government and opposition groups, he said. "The message Venezuelans are sending is clear: Venezuela wants peace, future and a country with equal opportunities for all. At this moment, the key word to achieve that is respect".

Borges called upon public authorities and bodies to respect the rules of the game: "We ask the government, the Supreme Court of Justice, the National Assembly, the Attorney General, the so-called Ombudsman, the National Armed Force, but especially the National Electoral Council to respect the will of millions of Venezuelans who stamped their signatures". He regretted the fact that in the last few years Venezuelans have been immersed in "a sort of fight and hatred that have left our country lagging behind and in poverty".

Meanwhile, parliamentarian Andrés Velázquez (opposition Causa R party) stressed that Venezuelans signed a presidential recall petition "despite the strict electoral requirements, a series of intimidation moves, humiliations and threats". He indicated that the signatures evidence "the will of the majority in the country. The truth cannot be hidden behind lies or cynical remarks from the government. The country knows who is the majority".

Subsequently, CNE formally received the signatures submitted by the Democratic Coordinator. From now on, the signatures are under the responsibility of the National Electoral Council for their custody, conservation, monitoring and control. During the official event, lawmaker César Pérez Vivas (opposition Copei party) spoke on behalf of the Democratic Coordinator. "These 250 boxes are the expression of one of the most successful democratic initiatives from the Venezuelan people; an attempt to stand up for their rights and preserve democracy as a system of life and government".

Addressing the directors of CNE, Vivas added: "Venezuela is relying on your untainted behavior, on your patriotism, and on your determination to enforce the fundamental rights of this people". Concerning rumors that CNE is postponing the verification of the signatures until January, Ezequiel Zamora, vice president of CNE, said no decision has been made on this issue.

Translated by Maryflor Suárez

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