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On August 15th, Venezuelans will vote in a referendum on whether to recall President Hugo Chavez or allow him to complete his term in office. If Mr. Chavez is voted out of office, a new presidential election must be called within thirty days. The Venezuelan constitution allows for such a referendum if at least two-million-four-hundred-thousand Venezuelans petition for it. More than three-million signatures were collected late last year for the petition to recall President Chavez.

Mr. Chavez was elected in 2000 as a populist candidate. However, dissatisfaction with the Chavez administration led to a national work stoppage in December 2002, shutting down all economic activity for over a month. Venezuela’s ongoing political turmoil has slowed foreign investment and has had a significant impact on its economy.

It is important “that this [recall] vote be conducted in an open, free, fair, and transparent manner,” says U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. The U.S. has “been working with other governments...[and] the Organization of American States to support. . .[a] constitutional, democratic, peaceful, and electoral solution” to Venezuela’s political impasse, as called for in Resolution Eight-thirty-three, approved by the Organization of American States:

“The issue is Venezuelan politics, the Venezuelan system. Whether it’s going to be fair, whether it’s going to be open? Whether the people are going to have a right to decide, or whether their democracy is going to be tainted by the actions of people who want to use violence, the actions of people who want to close down the media, and the actions of people who want to restrict political activity.”

On August 15th, the Venezuelan people will decide.