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Venezuelan Vote Audit Upholds Win By Chavez

Associated Press
Sunday, August 22, 2004; Page A24

CARACAS, Venezuela, Aug. 21 -- The results of an audit support the official vote count showing that President Hugo Chavez won this month's recall referendum, the head of the Organization of American States said Saturday.

Venezuelan election officials, along with observers from the OAS and the Atlanta-based Carter Center, conducted the audit by inspecting ballots from 150 voting stations to dispel opposition claims of fraud during the Aug. 15 referendum.

_____World Opinion_____
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Discussion Transcript
_____Road to Recall_____
Timeline: Events in Venezuela that led to the recall referendum on President Hugo Chavez.
_____From Venezuela_____
Video: Footage From Venezuela (The Associated Press, Aug 16, 2004)
Turnout Massive In Venezuela's Vote on Chavez (The Washington Post, Aug 16, 2004)
Chavez Upbeat Before Historic Vote to Oust Him (The Washington Post, Aug 13, 2004)
Building Loyalty and a Legacy (The Washington Post, Aug 12, 2004)
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Discreet Charm of the Status Quo: In Venezuela, citizens are caught between the benefits and perils of both change and stability.
_____From Venezuela_____
Video: Footage From Venezuela (The Associated Press, Aug 16, 2004)
Turnout Massive In Venezuela's Vote on Chavez (The Washington Post, Aug 16, 2004)
Chavez Upbeat Before Historic Vote to Oust Him (The Washington Post, Aug 13, 2004)
Building Loyalty and a Legacy (The Washington Post, Aug 12, 2004)
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"With this process concluded, we think the results released by the National Elections Council are compatible with the check we have done," OAS Secretary General Cesar Gaviria said. "In our opinion, the type of check used in this audit of the electronic system doesn't leave us much doubt regarding the result."

Gaviria did not provide specific details of the audit result. According to the official results, Chavez captured 59 percent of the vote.

The recall vote came after three years of violence and political unrest, including a three-month general strike launched by the opposition in December 2002 that paralyzed oil exports and cost the nation an estimated $7.5 billion. Violence has erupted periodically, with 19 people killed in an anti-Chavez protest shortly before the president was ousted in a short-lived coup in 2002, and 12 people slain during anti-government riots in March.

Opposition leaders refused to participate in the audit, saying the methodology was inadequate and would fail to detect fraud. They claim that touch-screen voting machines at hundreds of polling stations produced the same number of "yes" votes in favor of ousting Chavez, indicating that the machines were rigged to impose a ceiling on anti-Chavez votes.

"It's evident that the opposition has huge doubts" regarding the results, said Gaviria. "We cannot say categorically there was not fraud, we are saying we didn't find it."


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