Jimmy Carter, the new friend of Venezuela

The former US President would support Chavez's positions

Since last week, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Jimmy Carter, is trying to resume the negotiations between the Government and the opposition. Talks had come to a standstill in Caracas, as the anti-Chavez sectors continue the strike and the President insists on a Constitutional way out to the crisis.

Carter's mission is to encourage both parties to return to the dialogue and to back OAS General Secretary and former President of Colombia, Cesar Gaviria on his mediation efforts. "Venezuelans are responsible for the success of the negotiation and we -Carter's Center- are here back efforts towards a peaceful solution to the crisis", said the US former President to the Press in a Caracas's hotel.

Carter met yesterday President Chavez and announced his intention to push a constitutional alternative to put an end to the conflict. In a statement, he explained that either a referendum on Chavez's Presidency in August or amendments to the National Constitution are the options he will propose to the OAS. If both parties accept one of the alternatives, the legal process to make it real should start and the opposition should end the strike.

This is exactly President Chavez's position. Therefore, it is very difficult that the opposition would accept such proposal.. Opposition parties, business leaders and labor unions called the strike to demand that Chavez resign or call early elections. The National Elections Council accepted an opposition petition and agreed to organize a Feb. 2 nonbinding referendum asking citizens whether Chavez should step down. Chavez made no mistake about it, he will not accept the ballot's result.

The problem with this is that the "Bolivarian Constitution", legally approved by a National Assembly, only allows a binding referendum halfway through his six-year-term, or August. The Supreme Court is considering the matter.

However, is difficult to see why Chavez would quit after losing a constitutional binding referendum. If by that time he still enjoys Army and lower classes support, he would surely find new excuses not to leave the "Miraflores Palace".

All in all, Political Scientists know that in this kind of crisis violence it's always a variable to take into account. Let's hope it is not the case.

Hernan Etchaleco PRAVDA.Ru Argentina

Photo (AP): Jimmy Carter renews mediation efforts while violence surge again.

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