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Venezuela: Carter thinks CNE will not make it

From El Universal

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday in a press conference before leaving for the Unites States that while the National Electoral Council (CNE) "is progressing," he thinks the verification process of the signatures backing a presidential recall vote will not be completed, as announced, by February 13. President Hugo Chávez showed him two or three signature collection forms that had irregularities, but it did not surprise him.

Carter said that it is not an intentional delay but one caused by the enormous number of signatures and documents to be processed. However, it would not be a long delay, he said. The latest information he obtained is that the process would be delayed for no more than 10 days, but he hopes it will not take longer than March 1st.

Carter advised the CNE to issue written reports on any decision, delay or advance for the public opinion, and that they be jointly explained by the directors. According to Carter, the CNE's most serious delay comes from the will to scrupulously compare doubtful signatures with the collection forms. That takes too much time, he said.

His opinion in this respect is that in case of an error or a technical conflict, if the intention of the citizen is clear, it should be decided in favor of the citizen. Before going to the airport, he also asked the media to give the CNE "the benefit of doubt" on the subject of delays, as long as there is an explanation.

He also made the remark that the climate surrounding the general attitude toward the media is less tense now than one year ago. The former President also said that his organization is committed to Venezuela, regardless of the CNE's decision. If there is a recall vote, The Carter Center will remain here, he said.

Carter commented on his encounter with the leaders of the opposition, saying that he had recommended them to accept the CNE's resolution, regardless of the side it might favor, as long as it is in accordance with the Constitution. Some of them agreed and others had objections, he added.

Carter also told the journalists that President Hugo Chávez on Tuesday morning made a brief presentation of two or three signature collection forms that had some irregularities, while the opposition showed him evidences of the transparency of the procedures.

None of these presentations surprised me, Carter said. Deciding on this issue is a responsibility of the CNE. On the discussion about the presence of international observers in the area where the quality control committee of the CNE is performing its work, Carter said that it seems to be solved.

After two days of conflicting versions on the provisions of its norms, the CNE finally authorized the international observation of both the Organization of American States (OAS) and The Carter Center during the whole signature verification process.

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