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Caracas, Sep.15, 2004-In his final report to the Organization of American States (OAS), outgoing Secretary General Cesar Gaviria said that the OAS should continue probing charges of fraud by Venezuela’s opposition during the August 15 presidential recall referendum, while also reiterating his confidence in the results of that election which reaffirmed Hugo Chavez as President of Venezuela, with more than 59 per cent of the vote.

“I believe it is good that the OAS continue to pay attention to the accusation made by the opposition and that it makes independent evaluations of them,” Gaviria said in his report while also reaffirming his confidence in the results of the referendum. “In the Secretary General’s office and in the Unit for the Promotion of Democracy we are very reassured about the validity and compatibility of the [referendum] results,” Gaviria said, adding that investigating claims of fraud will only help Venezuelan democracy.

Gaviria’s recommendations and comments were part of his 43 page report on the OAS observation mission to Venezuela and its evaluation of the presidential referendum. Gaviria’s comments came as welcome words to Venezuelan opposition leaders.

The opposition newspaper, El Universal, reported that Timoteo Zambrano, an opposition leader who claims there was massive fraud during the presidential referendum, said that Gaviria’s report was “precise” and that it covered most aspects of the complex political situation in Venezuela.

Zambrano said that even though Gaviria’s report encourages the opposition to accept the referendum results, Gaviria questioned the legitimacy of the Chavez government when he said the OAS should look into the opposition’s accusations.

“In other words, he urged the OAS to create an extra OAS team to complete this task,” Zambrano said, adding that “new overwhelming evidence” of fraud will be presented later this month.

In his report Gaviria also said that by not accepting the referendum result, the Venezuelan opposition has placed itself in a difficult political situation. “The attitude of the opposition of not opening even a little space to recognize the triumph of President Chavez, has placed it in a complex situation in the face of the international community that fails to understand how the referendum did not contribute more in resolving the political conflict and does not understand its reasons for not recognizing the result.”

Meanwhile, government spokespersons said it no longer required OAS participation in Venezuelan affairs. “At this time we have nothing to discuss regarding the results of the August 15 referendum, now that the country’s competent authorities will address and evaluate the accusations. We do not need guidance from the OAS because everything required for resolving this case is part of the Venezuelan judicial system,” said Venezuela’s foreign minister, Jesús Arnaldo Pérez.