4 June 2004
Following the process of verification of signatures held throughout the country from 28 to 30 May, Venezuela's National Electoral Council announced that the constitutional threshold of 20 per cent of the registered electorate for a referendum had been reached and a recall vote on President Hugo Chávez's rule would be held.
Speaking at a press conference in Caracas on 31 May, the Secretary General of the Socialist International, Luis Ayala, called for a prompt, fair and transparent outcome of the process of verification. The SI Secretary General and the Chair of the Socialist International Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean, Rolando Araya, were in Venezuela to follow different aspects of the process as international observers, along with observers from the Organisation of American States and the Carter Center. While in Caracas, the SI representatives held meetings with the leaderships of both the International's member parties in the country, Democratic Action, AD, and the Movement for Socialism, MAS. They also met with leaders of the CTV trade union and of the Convergencia Democratica, the broad alliance of opposition parties, and with representatives of civil society organisations.
The process of verification followed the collection of signatures by the opposition last December, with 2.4 million signatures being required to hold a referendum, when the Electoral Council accepted 1.9 million signatures, rejected 400,000 and ordered verification of more than 1 million. Venezuelan citizens were involved in this process on Friday 28, Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 May in over 2,700 centres. Under the constitution, elections for a new president should take place within thirty days if President Chávez loses the recall vote. The constitution also stipulates that if the President is recalled by popular vote in the last two years of his mandate, the vice president becomes acting president until the end of the constitutional term. Chávez was elected on 19 August 2000.