ATLANTA (Reuters) -- Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said
Thursday he will send a team of observers to monitor December 6 elections
in Venezuela, where a tense campaign has led to rumours of coups, death
threats and plots.
"Venezuelans, who have a rich and strong tradition of democracy, will be
holding the most complex elections in their history, during a time marked by
substantial political change," Carter said in a statement.
"Whenever we monitor an election, our role is to support the democratic
process," he said. "Only the Venezuelan people may determine their
An oil-rich country of 22 million people, Venezuela has long been one of
Latin America's most stable countries.
But two failed military uprisings in 1992, the first led by the front-runner
the presidential race, Hugo Chavez, remain fresh in the minds of
Venezuelans and have raised questions of whether he would be allowed to
take power if he wins the vote.
Military coups, threats and plots are daily fodder in Venezuelan newspapers.
Carter is scheduled to be in Venezuela next Monday and Tuesday, which is
Election Day in the United States. He said he would discuss with election
officials and candidates Venezuela's progress in implementing a new
electronic voting system.
Venezuela will hold regional elections on Nov. 8 and the presidential election
on Dec. 6, when a 26-member delegation will be deployed throughout the
country to observe the vote count and performance of the new voting
Chavez has topped opinion polls for the presidential vote since March
although his lead has been cut in recent weeks by Yale-educated economist
Henrique Salas, the favoured candidate of the business community.
Carter lost power to Republican Ronald Reagan in 1980 after a single term
in office but has won world renown for diplomatic trouble-shooting as a
private citizen from his Carter Centre in Atlanta.
Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited