ATLANTA, GA....We congratulate the Venezuelan people for their enthusiastic participation in yesterday's election, and for their demonstration of faith in the democratic process. They voted calmly and peacefully, but definitively for change. We congratulate Venezuela's National Electoral Council and all of those who worked to ensure a smooth and efficient electoral process. The automated vote count system -- the first national electronic system in the hemisphere brought a new level of transparency and confidence to the process.
We were invited by the National Electoral Council and welcomed by the candidates to observe these elections, the 18th that we have monitored in this hemisphere. We are a delegation of 43 persons representing nine different countries of the Western Hemisphere and Europe. The delegation is led by three ex-presidents representing the Council of Freely Elected Heads of Government, based at The Carter Center: Patricio Aylwin of Chile, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada of Bolivia, and myself. We were joined by former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Nicholas Brady.
As part of our observation activities, we made two pre-election visits in October and November, opened a field office in mid-October, and deployed a small staff observer team for the November 8 elections. Immediately before the December 6 elections, the delegation leaders met with the top three candidates, President Caldera, and the Minister of Defense. After the elections, the leaders spoke with both President-elect Chavez and the second place winner Henrique Salas Romer. We applaud their expressions of conciliation and calls for all Venezuelans to work together for the future of the country.
On election day, our delegation visited 252 voting sites in 13 states and the Federal District of Venezuela. We will publish a final report in the coming weeks. Our preliminary findings include the following: