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Updates on Venezuela's recall referendum

By Sol Maria Castro,

Updates on Verification Process of Presidential Recall Referendum Petition after 68 days.

From the Referendum Norms passed by the National Electoral Council on September 25, 2003.

ARTÍCLE 28. In a period not longer than 30 continuous days after the presentation of the forms, the National Electoral Council will proceed to verify the data of the electors included in the petition to convoke according to the following procedure…

ARTÍCLE 22. The forms constitute the petition to convoke the recall referendum and should include:

1. Name, last name, and position the official whose mandate is to revoke, as well as indication of the inauguration date of said official.

2. Legible name, last name, ID number, date of birth, name of the electoral circumscription, original handwritten signature and fingerprint of the electors petitioning the activation of the recall referendum of mandate.

The petition to convoke the referendum is a very personal act; therefore, power of representation or authorization to sign for another one will not be allowed.

§ Francisco Carrasquero, president of the CNE informed three of the five directors voted in favor of sending 148,000 forms to the Superior Technical Committee (CTS) questioning the signatures of people who were assisted in filling out their personal data by a CNE witness at the table. The CTS will determine if the signatures are valid or will go to repair.

§ The OAS and the Carter Center proposed to take a random, statistically significant sample of the 148,000 signature collection forms that the National Electoral Council (CNE) has objected due to uniform handwriting to be matched on a one-to-one basis with the records in the DIEX, a methodology that has worked in other countries and situations and would reduce the complexity of the claim operation while clarifying "if the forms with uniform handwriting are from people who freely expressed their will." Both organizations insisted in the need to find repair methods that are transparent, swift and simple, subjected to a previous ruling and presuming the good faith of the signatories.

§ Rodríguez, one of the directors, in response to the OAS suggestion, said, “the good faith applies only if the corresponding requisites were met,” and admitted the possibility only if enough forms are included with “a very small margin of error”

§ Publication of ID card numbers classified as accepted, rejected, and objected will take place between March 1 and March 10.

§ The directorate was to meet today to approve the repair methodology, but the meeting was suspended when the independent directors did not show up. Pending discussion of the length of the objection period, which is set to begin on March 11, and the installation of 640 claim counters nationwide with fingerprint recognition technology, provided by the French firm Sagem.

§ The directors ratified February 29 as the date to make a preliminary announcement on the fate of the 62 referenda petitions.

§ A foundation Victims of Electoral Fraud is being created by the government.

Protests Calendar:

· February 26: Opposition will rally in front of the Embassies of the G-15 countries in Caracas.

· February 27: Opposition will march from Eastern Park to the Summit site to show G-15 guests their determination to have an electoral, peaceful, democratic, and constitutional way out.

· Pro-government supporters will commemorate El Caracazo (1992 riots) rallying in El Cementerio General del Sur, Plaza Morelos, Parque Central, and Petare.

· February 28: Pro-government supporters will march from Tazón (outside Caracas) against US meddling according to Municipio Libertador Mayor, Freddy Bernal and the political party PPT’s spokesman.

· February 29: Pro-government supporters will march to the CNE with the slogan, “East and West defend the streets.”

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