CARACAS, Venezuela - Hoping to defuse new political tension in Venezuela, former President Jimmy Carter and other international election monitors promised to double-check some voting results from a referendum that failed to oust Venezuela's leader, Hugo Chavez, after the opposition claimed the balloting was rigged.
Today, they will be witnesses as local election officials check a random sampling of results from 150 voting stations - a rare follow-up move to an election they have already said looked clean.
"We have no reason to doubt the integrity of the electoral process nor the accuracy of the referendum results," Carter asserted Tuesday.
Carter and Cesar Gaviria, the head of the Organization of American States, have been working for two years to find a solution to the often bloody political crisis that has gripped Venezuela, the world's fifth-largest oil exporting nation. Chavez is praised by supporters for giving the poor majority better services and a voice in politics, while some critics fear he intends to install a Cuban-style dictatorship.
Carter and Gaviria on Monday endorsed results of Sunday's referendum, in which Venezuelans voted by almost 58 percent to keep the leftist firebrand in office.
Leaders of an opposition coalition immediately cried fraud and called for mass demonstrations. Gunmen fired on an opposition demonstration later Monday, wounding seven people including a woman who died in a hospital on Tuesday. Dozens died in a failed coup against Chavez in April 2002 and in political riots over several years.
Unwilling to simply pack up and go home after giving their blessing, Carter and Gaviria decided they needed to stick around.
Today, they and members of the OAS and the Carter Center staff will watch, along with representatives of the opposition, as national election officials compare electronic and paper ballots.
The referendum was carried out on touch-screen voting machines, which produced a paper receipt of each vote.