VENEZUELA: ELECTION ACCORD REACHED
Supporters of President Hugo Chavez attending a rally to mark the one-year anniversary of his return to power after the collapse of a putsch that ousted him for two days
Venezuela’s government and opposition, seeking to lower tensions in the crisis-hit country, have agreed that a recall election on President Hugo Chavez’s mandate may be held.
Cesar Gaviria, secretary-general of the Organization of American States, announced the development to reporters some five months after he became involved in bitter talks between the Administration and opposition leaders.
Gaviria’s announcement came one year after a coup briefly ousted Chavez last April. Chavez returned to power some 47 hours later.
Under the 22-point agreement, negotiating parties agreed that a recall referendum on whether Chavez remains in office can be held if a constitutionally-determined number of voters demands it.
The agreement would be signed in the presence of Gaviria and another key player in the talks, Nobel Peace laureate and former US President Jimmy Carter, said Fernando Jaramillo, a spokesman for the OAS leader.
Gaviria had been involved in negotiations since November, trying to mediate the political crisis that has sharply divided the nation, and included a 63-day strike severely affecting the oil sector and other parts of the economy.
When the strike ended in early February, the government called on the opposition to try to reach an agreement.
Chavez had earlier said that no referendum on his term of office could be held until he was halfway through his six-year term -- in mid-August 2003.
If such a request were made half-way through his mandate -- backed by more than the number of ballots he garnered in 2000 -- Chavez would have to quit.
Chavez was first elected in 1998 and re-elected to a six-year term in 2000, with 3,757,773 votes, or 57 percent.