CARACAS, Venezuela – The Carter Center said on Monday that it declined an invitation from Venezuela's National Electoral Council to have a team at the country's Oct. 7 presidential election.
The Atlanta-based Carter Center was among the organizations that sent observer missions to monitor Venezuela's last presidential vote in 2006, along with the European Union and the Organization of American States. Venezuelan electoral authorities have since stopped inviting full international observer missions and have instead asked some foreign individuals to witness voting in smaller-scale "accompaniment" visits.
The Carter Center said in a statement that the council invited it to "form an intermediate option" and send a small group of experts to join in pre-election audits and be present on voting day. But the organization said it received the invitation too late "to evaluate it and organize the necessary experts and financing."
"My understanding is that the (electoral council) has come to the conclusion that they no longer need international observation to give confidence to the process," said Jennifer McCoy, director of the center's Americas program. "Since 2006 they've been in consultation with the political parties to establish a number of security mechanisms and audits with the participation of the political parties to give confidence to the process."
McCoy said in a telephone interview that Venezuelan domestic observer groups, political parties and voters themselves will have a number of ways to participate in monitoring the vote.
President Hugo Chavez is seeking another six-year term in the election, and is facing a challenge from opposition leader Henrique Capriles.
Venezuela isn't alone in Latin America in not hosting full international observer missions. Argentina and Brazil don't have a tradition of inviting international observers, McCoy said.
"For the international community, the difficulty comes if there are competing interpretations of what happened ... if different parties within the countries do not agree on the results," McCoy said. "Then it's just more difficult for the international community to know how to react."