Venezuela to audit Chavez poll

Former US president Jimmy Carter, who has been observing the vote, and the Organization of American States suggested the audit, however added they had no reason to doubt the outcome of Sunday’s vote.

The audit follows opposition allegations of fraud.

However in a boost for Mr Chavez, the United States accepted his victory after initial hesitation.

“The result of this second audit should be sufficient to address the remaining concerns that have been expressed by the opposition,” said Mr Carter.

Mr Carter said he and the Organization of American States (OAS) had suggested the move in order to ease concerns voiced by the opposition.

He said the electoral authorities agreed to conduct on Wednesday the random audit of 150 voting desks, monitored by officials of the government, the opposition and international observers.

Opposition leaders have denounced as a “massive fraud” the official outcome of the referendum which has Mr Chavez garnering 58 percent of the ballots.

Miranda state Governor Enrique Mendoza, who heads the Democratic Coordinator opposition coalition, demanded a repeat of the recall referendum, saying he had proof the official results of Sunday’s voting were rigged.

The opposition had pushed for the vote hoping it could revoke the president’s mandate.

But Mr Carter, who had already endorsed the outcome, reiterated Tuesday he had “no reason to doubt the integrity of the electoral process or the accuracy of the referendum itself.”

At the same time, 10 heads of state and government from Latin America and Caribbean nations signed a letter recognizing Mr Chavez’s electoral victory.

The results of a sample of 150 electronic voting machines will be checked against the paper record of each vote in front of international observers and witnesses from both the opposition and the government.

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