Venezuelan authorities will conduct a random audit of the recall referendum, former US president Jimmy Carter announced on Tuesday, adding that he had no reason to doubt the vote won by President Hugo Chavez. \nCarter said he and the Organization of American States (OAS) had suggested the move in order to ease concerns voiced by the opposition. \nCarter, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said the electoral authorities agreed to conduct the random audit of 150 voting desks yesterday, monitored by officials of the government, the opposition and international observers. \n"The results of this second audit should be sufficient to address the remaining concerns that have been expressed by the opposition," Carter said. \nOpposition leaders have denounced as a "massive fraud" the official outcome of the referendum which has Chavez garnering 58 percent of the ballots. The opposition had pushed for the vote hoping it could revoke the president's mandate. \nBut Carter, who had already endorsed the outcome, reiterated on Tuesday he had "no reason to doubt the integrity of the electoral process or the accuracy of the referendum itself." \nCarter and other international election monitors pledged to go the extra mile to dispel opposition claims that the referendum was rigged, and to prevent further political upheaval. \nCarter and Cesar Gaviria, the head of the OAS, 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. Carter and Gaviria on Monday endorsed results of Sunday's referendum, in which voters by almost 58 percent voted to keep the leftist firebrand in office. \nLeaders of an opposition coalition immediately cried fraud and called for mass demonstrations. Gunmen fired on an opposition demonstration later Monday, injuring six people and mortally wounding 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. \nNot willing to simply pack up and go home after giving their blessing to how the referendum was handled, Carter and Gaviria decided they needed to stick around. \nYesterday, they and members of the OAS and the Carter Center staff were to watch, along with representatives of the opposition, as national election officials compare electronic and paper ballots. \nThe referendum was carried out on touch-screen voting machines, which produced a paper receipt of each vote, much like an ATM. Voters then deposited the receipts into a ballot box. \nAmid charges that the electronic machines were rigged, the monitors will be checking the results from the machines against the paper ballots to make sure there are no major discrepancies.
SCHEDULE: The delegation is due to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen this morning and witness the signing of an MOU on bilateral health cooperation in the afternoon US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar yesterday arrived in Taipei aboard a US government plane at the head of a delegation that is the highest-level visit by a US official since Washington switched diplomatic recognition to China in 1979. Azar’s flight landed at Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) at 4:48pm, nearly one hour earlier than scheduled, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. The apron where it landed is reserved for military aircraft, the Songshan Air Force Base Command said. The members of Azar’s delegation included HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, HHS Chief of Staff Brian
ALEX AZAR: The first visit by a head of the Department of Health and Human Services would strictly observe the CECC’s special regulations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar is to lead a delegation to Taiwan — the highest-level visit by a US Cabinet official since the two sides cut formal relations in 1979. The plan was announced yesterday morning by the US Department of Health and Human Services and confirmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). Beijing has expressed its concerns to Washington, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin (汪文斌) said later yesterday. Taiwan and the US only issued statements saying that the visit would happen “in the coming days.” MOFA said that due to security concerns, it would
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The military last week sent “no small number” of Marine Corps officers to the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Island, 東沙群島) following reports of a Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) drill targeting the islands scheduled for this month. In an interview with Hong Kong’s Bauhinia Magazine published on Saturday last week, PLA National Defense University professor Li Daguang (李大光) confirmed that the Chinese army was planning to stage a simulated invasion of the Pratas Islands in the South China Sea this month. The islands comprise three atolls, with Pratas Island, at 1.74km2, being the largest. They lie southwest of Taiwan proper in the South