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Venezuela: Ruling party wants observers replaced

By Taynem Hernandez, El Universal

The Venezuelan ruling party Movimiento V República (MVR) joined the request of another pro-government party, Patria Para Todos (PPT), to the National Electoral Council (CNE) demanding for the replacement of the team of observers of the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Carter Center in the country.

Willian Lara, spokesman of MVR, announced the party's decision while criticizing Saturday comments of Fernando Jaramillo, representative of the OAS, that last weekend process to ratify signatures backing several legislative recalls had been attended by "fewer people than expected."

"It is not correct that (Jaramillo) uses his status as observer to interfere in our affairs," Lara said. He added that Jaramillo never said that the claim centers he was observing in Zulia state was against a pro-government legislator and AD (a major opposition party) did not show up to witness the process.

Additionally, responding to Jaramillo's alleged comments that the probe on the funding of Súmate (the NGO that processed the signature data for the opposition) was a judicial persecution, Lara recommended him to read the Venezuelan Constitution to clarify this point.

Meanwhile, Juan Montenegro, a representative of PPT, said his party's petition was aimed at "keeping the observers off (...) our affairs." "They cannot be leading the processes," he said.

Both Lara and Montenegro denied the vision expressed by the opposition umbrella organization Democratic Coordinator that pro-government groups had committed fraud during the signature ratification process last week.

OAS responds

On the other hand, Jaramillo, together with Gordon Streeb, executive director for the peace program of the Carter Center, said in a joint press release that the first stage of the ratification process was "normal and quiet" and announced that they will not replace their team of 150 observers for the next weekend.

It is necessary to "lower the temperature of this public discussion," Jaramillo said. He explained that the ruling party is in its right to make the request, but the decision on that matter is in the hands of the secretary general and the Permanent Council of the OAS.

"I already explained my reasons to the CNE, but if Comando Ayacucho wants me to do it in a private manner, I will be pleased do it", he said.

Streeb, meanwhile, said that the Carter Center has no plan to replace its team in Venezuela.

Jaramillo and Streeb, additionally, announced that their superiors, César Gaviria, secretary general of the OAS, and Jennifer McCoy and Jimmy Carter of the Carter Center would arrive in Venezuela on Friday and Saturday.

The procedures designed by the CNE "were thoroughly followed" in the sites assigned, which were opened at the programmed hours, and "the material was correctly and timely distributed," they said. It added that the data transmission was made "adequately."

However, the two organizations took notes of complaints of the people who did not find their names in the lists.

Besides, they declared to have observed that the representatives of both the government and the opposition "demonstrated to be prepared to perform their duties." Jaramillo and Streeb underlined that there was no act of violence during the process.

Asked about the comments of some activists of the opposition who argue that the CNE is committing a fraud with the ratification process for the legislative recalls, Jaramillo refrained to make any statement. Translated by Edgardo Malaver

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