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Venezuela's recall: An e-conversation with Jennifer McCoy

By Aleksander Boyd

London 21 Sep. 04 - After reading the latest report of the Carter Centre (CC) last week, I decided to send an email to Dr. Jennifer McCoy with the sole aim of clearing some doubts that I still have got about the referendum and its results. It bothers me that the leftist intelligentsia keeps repeating that we should turn the page; that we should move on. Perhaps they have forgotten how repetitive their argument was, and continues to be, when George Bush won the election four years ago. To my agreeable surprise Dr McCoy found the time to correspond with me over the issue and I shall post here my messages and her replies. Although I am still waiting for a proper explanation, I would like to take this opportunity to express publicly my sincerest gratitude towards Dr McCoy for having attempted to explain the actions of the CC in Venezuela’s recall. Apologies to the language impaired.

From: Aleksander Boyd
To: Jennifer McCoy
Date: 17/09/2004 16:10
Subject: I beg for an explanation...

Dear Dr McCoy,

I have just read the latest report produced by the Carter Center. In the conclusions I could see that it seems that now the CC is backtracking from the previous announcements with respect to the randomness of the sample used in the second audit. You and I know that the programme proposed by you was not used, and Director Rodriguez' imposed software was the one commissioned and used for the generation of the samples. You also know that Director Rodriguez imposed, illegally, the centers and constituencies from where the random sample was to be pooled. Moreover, it is of your knowledge that the opposition contested said arbitrary decision, deciding to participate not in an audit that was absolutely and ominously controlled by Rodriguez, and that the boxes selected were out of your sight and control for 60 hours.

How can you possibly claim now that the samples were representative of the whole universe of polling centers? Is it too difficult for you to just tell the truth?

Please be kind enough to answer these queries.

Cordially,

Aleksander Boyd

From: Jennifer McCoy
To: Aleksander Boyd
Date: 17/09/2004 22:05
Subject: Re: I beg for an explanation...

Dear Mr. Boyd,

If you are referring to the report posted yesterday on the Carter Center website regarding an investigation of the Hausmann/Rigobon assertions, I believe the report speaks for itself.

J. McCoy

From: Aleksander Boyd
To: Jennifer McCoy
Date: 17/09/2004 22:37
Subject: I beg for an explanation...

Dear Dr McCoy,

Many thanks for your reply, I feel much obliged to realize that you have indeed taken the time to answer. I am not referring to the Hausmann / Rigobon report, but rather to other set of issues as stressed in my previous communication, namely:

1) the software programme proposed by the CC and the OAS was not utilized in the randomized generation of the sample (as admitted both by your own report and that of Sec. Gaviria) in spite of assurances given by both international observation teams to CD representatives;

2) Director Rodriguez decided, as a matter of fact, from which polling centers / constituencies the sample were to be drawn;

3) Carter Center and OAS representatives did not safeguard the integrity of the boxes for 60 hours prior to the second audit.

Dr McCoy, let us be rational here for a moment or two. You (as the CC) were not present in the first audit, yet you approved of the results announced by Carrasquero. You did not control the second audit for your proposed software was not utilized and under no circumstances can you guarantee the integrity of the selected boxes, taking into account the many hours that these were out of your watch. Thirdly, please allow me to quote from Tulio Alvarez' report:

109. El Rector progubernamental Jorge Rodríguez impuso la previa selección de los Estados y de los Municipios en lo que tendrían lugar las selecciones aleatorias de máquinas y de cajas electorales y las auditorias correspondientes. De las ciento noventa y nueve (199) máquinas elegidas mediante la aplicación de un Programa fuente elaborado, unilateralmente, por los equipos del propio Rector oficialista citado, sólo se le facilitó y permitió a la oposición, a última hora y superando obstáculos de acreditación impuestos por el mismo Poder Electoral y la Fuerza Armada, estar presente en veintisiete (27) auditorias, representativas de las jurisdicciones electorales con mayor población en el país. Los resultados de esa revisión, perturbada y finalmente abortada por el Poder Electoral sin que mediase reacción alguna por parte de los observadores internacionales del Centro Carter, produjeron un resultado favorable a la oposición con un sesenta y dos por ciento (63%) de los votos emitidos. (Informe de Auditoria)

I want to believe that the recall was transparent but there are far too many unresolved issues and as we deposited our trust in you I would like to respectfully request that you tell me whether or not the aforementioned is true. Should that be the case then how can I, as a Venezuelan who feels deeply towards my country, turn the page? How can I ever trust again the current electoral authorities? The said issues do not pertain to the scientific realm but took place in reality. Please help me dissipate by doubts.

Most cordially,

Aleksander Boyd

From: Jennifer McCoy
To: Aleksander Boyd
Date: 17/09/2004 22:52
Subject: Re: I beg for an explanation...

Your first email said you read our latest report. I was asking if you were referring to our most recent report -- the one reporting on our investigation of the Hausmann/Rigobon study -- because it does indeed answer your questions below.

Director Rodriguez did not decide on the mesas to be audited in that second audit; a random sample generator did that. Of course the second audit was done on boxes that were under the control of the Plan Republica for 2 days, not the CNE nor the international observers. Any audit done afterwards, including that requested by the CD, has that condition. Our intent was to do it as soon as possible after the concerns emerged so that the time in which the boxes were under the control of Plan Republica would be as short as possible -- in direct response to the opposition's concerns. We proposed the second audit precisely because the first one was not completed.

Jennifer McCoy

From: Aleksander Boyd
To: Jennifer McCoy
Date: 17/09/2004 23:34
Subject: Re: I beg for an explanation...

Dear Dr McCoy,

It is because I read your reports that I am confused for Alvarez report states:

El Rector progubernamental Jorge Rodríguez impuso la previa selección de los Estados y de los Municipios en lo que tendrían lugar las selecciones aleatorias de máquinas y de cajas electorales y las auditorias correspondientes.

But yours say:

"The sample generation program was run 1,020 times. With no exception all of the 8,141 mesas appeared at least 14 times in a sample. Not a single mesa was excluded from the sample in the test run."

Who is not telling the truth, Alvarez? Moreover here are some excerpts of Asdrubal Aguiar:

No dice, empero, que el autor de la selección previa de las máquinas y de las cajas electorales sobre las que se habría de realizarse la auditoria en caliente fue el Rector progubernamental Jorge Rodríguez. Y tampoco refiere que, una vez como fueron seleccionadas "aleatoriamente" las 195 máquinas y urnas del caso, mediante la aplicación de un Programa fuente elaborado unilateralmente por los equipos del citado Rector oficialista, sólo se le facilitó y permitió a la oposición su presencia en 27 auditorias, pero representativas, en todo caso, de los 7 Estados más importantes del país.

En una gestión última para convencernos de participar en la auditoria posterior mencionada, el Centro Carter aseguró que estaría bajo su control el programa fuente para la selección "aleatoria" de las cajas a ser revisadas;

Someone seems to have difficulties in accepting facts, is it the CC or is it Aguiar and Alvarez?

Just one word will suffice to appease my doubts...

Cordially,

Aleksander Boyd

From: Jennifer McCoy
To: Aleksander Boyd
Date: 18/09/2004 00:12
Subject: Re: I beg for an explanation...

There were two audits. Your excerpts below refer to August 15 audit. The sites were restricted by the CNE for logistical reasons -- since the sample was only drawn in the afternoon of the August 15 (by previous agreement with the political parties in order to avoid the possibility of the machines being tampered with before August 15), it would not be possible to send the CNE auditors to far-flung or rural places in time for the scheduled closing of the polls and the "hot audit".

Our reports all refer to the second audit, August 18.

Jennifer McCoy

From: Aleksander Boyd
To: Jennifer McCoy
Date: 18/09/2004 09:38
Subject: Re: I beg for an explanation...

Dear Dr McCoy,

Many thanks for your response and kindness in engaging on this topic. Let me assure you that what I write stems from the many doubts that I have got. I am aware that there were two audits, although the first one does not count for the reasons already mentioned by you. You have stated that your reports refer to the second audit and it is the mechanics of the second audit that have me confused, please do bear with me.

As director of an international NGO I was in charge of coordinating the team of witnesses for the SI option and supervising the normal course of the vote here in London. The vote here was manual, however the process of opening the ballot boxes is standard procedure across the board. The 'mesa' director -credited by the CNE- lifted the box and showed it to all of the members of the mesa (before the watchful eyes of 50 witnesses), so that they could check the absolute integrity of the seal wrap (precinto) that contained the signatures of them all, as said seal was signed by them in public before the commencement of the event in the morning. Now contrast that process with the verbatim of your report of the 26th of August:

"3.4 Inspection of the boxes: Each box was physically checked to see whether: 1. The material used to seal the box was intact or whether there were signs that it had been taken off and then replaced. 2. There were cracks or holes through which votes might have been extracted or inserted. If a box was defective in regard to sealing, cracks, or holes, all the boxes of that polling station were excluded from the audit and a note to that effect recorded in the minutes."

First doubt: the members of the mesa that had signed the seal wrap of a given box selected for the audit could not confirm whether or not their signatures or the seal wrap hadn't been tampered with for they were not present.

The report of the 26th of August states:

"The polling stations were selected as a simple random sample from 8,141 automated polling stations throughout the country. The sample was generated by CNE staff using a simple software program..."

This comment it reinforced by your second report dated 16th of September:

"The CNE requested a group of university professors to develop a sample generation program for the 2nd audit... The sample generation program was run 1,020 times. With no exception all of the 8,141 mesas appeared at least 14 times in a sample. Not a single mesa was excluded from the sample in the test run."

Second doubt: is it not true that either you or someone from the Carter Center gave sufficient assurances to Aguiar and to other members of the opposition that only a software proposed and controlled by you were to be used to generate the random sample? This is, as we would say in Venezuela, "la madre de todas las dudas" I shall quote now some questions penned by Ismael Perez Vigil (director of Red de Veedores):

¿Cómo se nos dice de la manera más candida que el programa que se utilizó para realizar el sorteo de las cajas de esta segunda auditoria es el mismo con el que se sortearon las 192 mesas del día 15 de agosto, proceso que estuvo completamente viciado y fue considerado poco confiable por el propio Centro Carter y la OEA? ¿Qué sentido tiene que se nos diga que se acudió al sorteo de las 150 cajas y que tanto el programa, como la computadora que lo hizo, como el funcionario que introdujo los números clave o “semillas” eran del organismo que esta siendo cuestionado? ¿Por qué en vez de revisar el programa que proporciono el CNE, no se hizo el sorteo con uno que proveyeran el Centro Carter o la OEA? ¿Por qué no se hizo con una computadora del Centro Carter o de la OEA?

My doubts are shared by very many of my fellow countrymen and in light of the circumstances we can not feel confident about the process and outcome much less can we deem worthwhile to participate in the coming regional elections. There's lots of nervousness and anxiety in Venezuela. Some elements are already thinking about guerrilla warfare as the only solution to get rid of Chavez, since all democratic tools at our disposal are vitiated with nullity. The concourse of international entities appears to be crucial to some people in Venezuela, in that sense I believe you have a duty of honour towards us and towards the wellbeing of humanity in general. You accepted said duty the moment you decided to take part in a process marred by complications, intrigue and lack of transparency, from both sides I should add.

So please Dr McCoy I beg you to tell me, how can I trust the results of the second audit given the fact that the process was under the absolute control of the CNE -as pointed out in both your reports- and not under your control, as the Carter Center ascertained it would be?

Kind regards,

Aleksander Boyd

Read part II

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