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Opposition leaders in Venezuela had been complaining that the National Electoral Council (CNE), which is in charge of organizing the vote and of inviting international observers, was taking its time inviting observers and that many might not come because invitations were sent out too late.

Last year, for the presidential recall referendum, the European Union had turned down the invitation to observe the referendum because it said it did not have enough time to prepare. Opposition leaders had charged that the CNE actually did not want the EU’s participation. The CNE, though, said it simply could not send out invitations earlier because the date of the referendum was not known until very late.

Oscar Battaglini, one of the CNE directors who was in Belgium with Venezuela’s Foreign Minister and EU Commissar Ferrero-Waldner, said the EU’s participation, “puts an end to the [media] messages that suggest that the CNE is trying to obstruct the collaboration of this European body in the upcoming elections.”

Foreign Minister Rodriguez said that Venezuela was particularly interested in the EU’s participation and emphasized that Venezuela’s voting system was one of the safest in the world.