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July 21, 1999 



Assistant Secretary General Christopher R. Thomas leaves Washington for Venezuela on Friday to oversee an Organization of American States (OAS) observation mission that will monitor Sunday’s elections to choose representatives of that country’s National Constituent Assembly.

The OAS team consists of more than 50 international observers. The Chief of Mission of the team is Santiago Murray, Special Advisor to the Organization’s Unit for the Promotion of Democracy. Already on the ground in Venezuela, some members of the team of observers have started to monitor the process that will culminate in the July 25 vote to elect some 131 representatives to the unicameral Constituent Assembly.

The OAS was invited by Venezuela’s National Electoral Council and an agreement to observe the poll was signed in Washington on July 14 between the Organization’s Secretary General CÚsar Gaviria and Venezuela’s Ambassador to the OAS, Virginia Contreras.

Thomas, a former Ambassador of Trinidad and Tobago to Venezuela, will oversee the observation activities from headquarters in Caracas and 9 subsidiary offices set up in different regions of the country. The mission involves meeting with interested political representatives, national authorities, ambassadors and members of the media.

OAS monitors observed last year’s general elections in Venezuela at which Secretary General Gaviria was present. Since the start of this year, the Organization has dispatched missions to observe elections in Grenada, Guatemala and Panama.

The present OAS observation mission is being underwritten with the help of external financing provided by the United States Government.